How Much Iron Is Left In The World, Will We Run Out, & What Happens If We Do?

In the guide below, we discuss the world’s iron ore resources.

We outline factors such as how much might be left, when we might run out, what might happen if we get to that point, and other relevant information.


Summary – The World’s Iron Ore Resources

Why Iron Ore Is Important, & Uses Across Society

Iron ore is mainly used to make steel, which is one of the most common and most important metals used across almost every industry in society


How Much Iron Ore Is Left On Earth – Resources, & Reserves

One estimate indicates there’s 800 billion tonnes of crude iron ore resources left in the world, and 230 billion tonnes of that is iron content

Another estimate indicates that there’s 180 billion metric tons of crude iron ore reserves, and the iron content of that is 85 billion metric tons

So, resources seem to be significantly higher than reserves at this point

Australia is the country with the largest reserves, with Brazil, Russia and China behind Australia as the top countries

When considering the amount of iron ore resources and reserves left, the type of iron ore has to be considered, as well as the iron content, and whether discovered deposits are composed of mostly high-grade or low-grade ores

‘Useable’ iron ore, and iron ore that is economically feasible to mine/extract, is the iron ore that perhaps matters most


Total Iron Ore Production Per Year

In 2020, one estimate was that the world produced 2.4 billion tonnes of iron ore


Country That Produces The Most Iron Ore

Australia is currently the country that produces the most useable iron ore, with Brazil and China in second and third


Which Country Produces The Most Steel?

China currently produces the most steel by a significant margin


How Much Iron Ore Do We Use Per Year?

In 2020, global consumption of iron ore was 2,046.05 million tonnes


Are We Running Out Of Iron Ore? – Potential For Shortages

Several reports indicate that countries like China and India have experienced different types of shortages, relating to both the procurement of iron ore by steelmakers from iron ore suppliers, and also having an adequate amount of total amount iron ore production to meet demand at any one time.

In the guide below, we reference another guide that outlines the relationship between steelmakers and iron ore suppliers, and how claimed shortages may happen

We also mention how China is claimed to be addressing an iron ore shortage with an increase in investment in both overseas and domestic iron ore production, and also increased consumption of steel scrap


Will We Run Out Of Iron Ore? If So, When?

There have been some estimates that we might run out of iron ore by 2070, but, this is one estimate only.

Whether or not we run out of iron ore depends on a range of variables, which we list in the guide below.


What Happens If We Run Out Of Iron Ore?

If iron ore becomes more scarce, factors like price and availability could be impacted


Is Iron Ore Renewable?

Technically, because it’s a finite resource, it isn’t renewable

But, factors like the high recycling rate of steel make it a reasonably circular material in the economy


Using Iron & Steel More Sustainably In Society

The high recycling rate of steel makes it a material that is used reasonably sustainably in society from a re-use perspective

Although, there has been a recent push by some countries to lower the carbon footprint of steel at the production stage


Firstly, What Do We Use Iron Ore For, & What Makes It Important In Society?

There’s many reports that indicate that 98% of mined iron ore in the world is used to make steel.

Iron ore is actually the raw material that is used to make pig iron (crude iron), and steel is a processed form of pig iron.

Steel is obviously used across almost every major industry in society, such as construction, different types of transport (road, air, rail, etc.), industry (especially for industrial equipment), infrastructure, appliances, defence, and more.

Iron ore is also one of the most traded commodities in the world.

For these reasons and others, iron ore is one of the most important raw materials in the world.


How Much Iron Ore Do We Have Left On Earth? – Resources, & Proven Reserves

There appears to be a significant amount of iron ore resources and reserves left, with Australia the country with the largest reserves.

What’s worth noting is that iron ore can be split into high-grade ore, and also low-grade ore.

Production of iron ore usually comes from deposits of high-grade ore.



World resources of crude iron ore are estimated to exceed 800 billion tonnes containing more than 230 billion tonnes of iron [and] The world’s resources are dominated by low-grade ore (



The total reserves of crude iron ore worldwide were estimated to be approximately 180 billion metric tons in 2021. The total iron content of that amount is estimated to be some 85 billion metric tons (


The extent of the accessible iron ore reserves is not known … (


Countries With The Largest Reserves

[In 2021, in millions of metric tons, the countries with the largest amount of world reserves of iron ore were Australia (51,000 crude ore, and 25,000 iron content), Brazil (34,000 crude ore, and 15,000 iron content), Russia (25,000 crude ore, and 14,000 iron content), and China (20,000 crude ore and 6,900 ion content)]

[51,000 crude ore equates to 51 billion metric tons]



Total Production Of Iron Ore, & Which Countries Produce The Most Iron Ore?

Total Production

Total worldwide production [of iron ore] in 2020 stood at around 2.4 billion tonnes (


Countries That Produce The Most Iron Ore

Australia currently produces the most useable iron ore 


[In 2019, in useable iron ore production in 1000 tonnes, Australia produced 930,000, Brazil 480,000, and China 350,000] (


Which Country Produces The Most Steel?

Because most iron ore goes towards making steel, it’s worth knowing which country produces the most steel – that country is China.


[In 2017, China was the largest steel producing country by far at 831,728,000 tonnes, with Japan and India in second and third – at 104,661,000 and 101,455,000 tonnes respectively] (


How Much Iron Ore Do We Use? What Is The Consumption Rate?


Global Consumption of Iron ore amounted to 2,046.05 Million Tonnes in 2020 (


Are We Running Out Of Iron Ore? – Potential For Iron Ore Shortages

Iron ore shortages can be specific to individual countries, and can relate to the procurement of iron ore (from iron ore producers) by steelmakers, but also the quantity of iron ore production itself at any one time 

Some reports for example indicate that China has experienced an iron ore shortage relating to iron ore production.

And, other reports indicate India has experienced a supply shortage relating to the procurement of iron ore.

China might have avenues to address a shortage (as reported by outlined a ‘plan’ by China in 2022 to ‘solve it’s iron ore shortages/solve the shortage issue in steelmaking ingredients’ with increased investment in overseas and domestic iron ore production, as well as increased consumption of steel scrap 


India’s secondary steelmakers are facing troubles in procurement of iron ore [which is leading to a] supply shortage (


[In India] … iron ore producers contest that there is no shortage [of iron ore] … the very fact that steel companies are exporting iron ore means that there is no shortage of iron ore, otherwise they would have utilised it in their steel plans ( goes into more depth about iron ore supply and steel production, and what that means for shortages in their guide


Some of the factors that can impact iron ore supply and steel production can include, but aren’t limited to:

– The relationship between primary or secondary steel makers, the iron ore producers who supply them with iron ore, and the government can matter. Economic conditions can too. explains these factors in their guide

– As the largest steel producer in the world by a large margin, China’s activity and the conditions around their steel production at any one time can have an impact. For example, China can increase or decrease investment in or use of overseas iron ore production, domestic iron ore production, and steel scrap consumption at any one time.

– World events that impact material shortages, via labor shortages, conditions on imports and exports, and so on

– Requirements on the decarbonisation of steel can impact how much steel can be made in some countries if the carbon footprint of steel production is currently too high looking to steel production is an important part of the potential answer ( notes that this has impacted China’s importation of iron ore from Australia in the past)


Will We Run Out Of Iron Ore? If So, When?

Some estimates indicate that there was 64 years of iron ore left 2006, but ultimately, whether we will run out of iron ore or steel, and when, depends on a range of factors.


How Many Years Worth Of Iron Ore Do We Have Left?

[It was] suggested in 2006 that iron ore could run out within 64 years (that is, by 2070), based on 2% growth in demand per year (


Will We Run Out Of Iron Ore?

Iron ore is abundant on Earth, so in theory there’s a lot of available iron ore.

Whether we will actually run out of iron ore in the economy depends on several factors including but not limited to:

How much high-grade iron ore (i.e. suitable quality iron ore) there is to mine/extract in an economically feasible way 

The future demand for iron ore and steel

The capacity and willingness to invest in future iron ore production and mining, and keep production at a level to meet demand

The relationship between iron ore producers/suppliers, and primary and secondary steelmakers (which describes in their guide)


We provide more insight in this guide as to why we might not run out of some minerals or mined resources anytime soon.


What Happens If We Run Out Of Iron Ore?

Running out of any resource may impact things such as:

– The availability of that resource for the key things we use it for across society

– The price of that resource as it becomes more scarce, and consequently, the affordability of the things we use that resource for 

The price of resources increasing as reserves are depleted is something we mentioned in our guide about why we may not run out of mined resources anytime soon.


Is Iron Ore A Renewable Resource?

Because there’s only a finite amount of ore on Earth, iron ore is technically a non renewable resource.

However, unlike fossil fuels which are also non renewable, iron, or more specifically steel, can be recovered and recycled.

This makes iron and steel more circular resources that can be re-used.


Using Iron & Steel More Sustainably In Society

One of the positives for the sustainable use of iron and steel is that steel is one of the most recycled materials in the world.

This contributes to making iron and steel more circular materials, and may also help ease the burden on production/supply of primary iron.



















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