Iron ore imports by China surged above 100 million metric tons to a record, smashing the previous high set in 2015, as the country’s concerted push to clean up the environment stoked demand for higher-grade material from overseas while hurting local mine supply. Prices rallied.
Purchases of iron ore expanded to 102.8 million tons in September from 93 million tons a year ago, surpassing the previous record of 96.3 million tons in December 2015, according to customs data on Friday.
Over the first nine months, imports climbed 7.1 percent to 817 million tons, putting full-year purchases on course to top 1 billion tons by a comfortable margin.
China has been pulling in ever-greater volumes from miners in Australia and Brazil including Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd. to meet resilient demand from steelmakers, who’ve benefited from rising profit margins.
As Asia’s top economy presses home a drive to clean up the air, mills are seeking out higher-grade material. At the same time, local mines have been restricted, with Macquarie Group Ltd. saying Chinese iron ore output has collapsed.
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