A worker stands on
top of stacks of steel
products at a Chinese
warehouse in Shanghai
 
Beijing, China — MININGREVIEW.COM — 04 May 2009 – China – the world’s largest consumer of iron ore – has given a clear indication that it may be cutting  imports of the steelmaking ingredient by about 21% this year, as demand from mills continues to slump.

“Imports may fall to 350 million metric tonnes, said, China Metallurgical Mining Enterprise Association chairman Zou Jian at a Metal Bulletin conference here. The country bought 443.6 million tonnes last year, according to customs data.

Brazil’s Cia Vale do Rio Doce – the largest supplier of iron ore – has offered a 20% price discount to bolster sales, and rival BHP Billiton Limited has increased cash ore sales after customers deferred deliveries. Iron ore producers and steelmakers are currently negotiating 2009 benchmark contract prices.

“Prices may fall more than expected as suppliers seek to maintain sales levels,” Zou said. He gave no forecast, but said that China might need only 310 million tonnes of imports.

The Asian nation boosted imports from Australia by 26% last year, India by 15% and Brazil by 3 %, Zou said.

“More than 50% of China’s iron ore mines have closed,” Fortescue Metals Limited – Australia’s third-largest exporter of the material – revealed at the same conference. “Mines producing high-cost magnetite ore are likely to stop operations,” said the Perth-based company’s executive director Russell Scrimshaw.

“Still,” he admitted, “China may need to increase imports by 25 million metric tonnes a year between now and 2025 to meet its future steel demand.