Chinese demand for iron ore and the price of Australia’s biggest export — by some stretch — has been instrumental to our economy’s success these past four years as most of the rest of the western world has struggled. Last year Australia exported A$64.1 billion worth of the commodity, up 13% from the year before and from $5.3 billion in 2001.
After plunging to $60 per tonne during the global financial crisis it has again been happy days for mining companies — earlier this year iron ore hit a record price of $191.50 per tonne. The big three iron ore producers — Rio Tinto (London-based), BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group — were making hay, shipping record volumes at record prices. All three companies had pushed the button on major expansions to their mines in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The market loved them, as China appeared to defy the trend of recession around the globe.