Vale CEO: China stilll wants more iron ore, despite analyst reports
Posted: 05/17/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
“Those who have been betting against Chinese growth since the 1990s will be wrong again." These are the bold words of Murilo Ferreira, CEO of Vale, the world’s largest iron ore mining company.
“China is just getting going,” Ferreira added, disputing many analysts’ recent predictions that Chinese growth may be slowing down after their March iron-ore import numbers were down to 62.9MM tonnes, three percent from the previous month. Despite the drop, Ferreira points out that China’s iron-ore import numbers had risen six percent in the previous quarter.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently warned that global growth is likely to slow down. Senior IMF economist Rupa Duttagupta refers to global outlook on commodities as “pretty grim.” For iron ore industry, this means that Chinese demand for steel could be decreasing.
China produces massive quantities of iron-ore, yet their 2010 output of 900MM tonnes was mostly all low-grade crude ore. As such, China is dependent on usable ore from Australia, home to the world’s largest iron-ore deposit, and Brazil, home to the second largest deposit. Brazil accounts for approximately 15% of the world’s iron.
Vale is responsible for nearly a third of the world’s one billion tonnes of iron ore exports, while China is the world’s biggest importer of the mineral accounting for approximately 60% of the world’s demand. “China every day needs us more and more,” Ferreira says – but no more than his company needs a China that covets steel.
Iron ore is the main ingredient in steel, and is also the world’s most produced and consumed mineral. Recently the price of iron-ore has risen to nearly $150 per tonne, its highest price in five months, and Vale believes that the cost could eventually make its way up to $180 per tonne. In fact, Ferreira and Vale are counting on it as they’re in the midst of investing some $50 billion in Vale’s 20 biggest mining operations – from iron ore, to nickel, copper and fertilizer.
Above and beyond this, Vale is planning on spending another $19.5 billion to improve their flagship site, the Serra Sul mine in Brazil’s Amazon. Vale’s plan is to raise their iron-ore output to a whopping 400MM tonnes per year, 90MM tonnes of that coming from Serra Sul. In the ‘90s Vale was producing approximately 90MM tonnes of iron ore as a company. That number has since risen 350MM tonnes. Vale may already be the world’s biggest producer of iron ore, but that isn’t stopping the company from continuing to grow strategically in the face of emergent competition.
In October 2006 Vale acquired the nickel mining company Inco, Canada’s second largest mining company, for $18.9 billion. Vale even absorbed Inco’s debt to the amount of $1.2 billion. Through the purchase Vale became the world’s second largest mining company, and also the world’s second largest producer of nickel.
This article first appeared on EPCM World and has been republished with permission.
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