It is the rock that has fortified Australia’s recession-defying economy. Iron ore has helped to raise living standards in the country, supercharge pension funds, and bankroll governments. It is the key ingredient of steel, and is Australia’s most lucrative export.
Last year, the trade, mostly to China, as well as South Korea and Japan, was worth 63bn Australian dollars ($45bn; £35bn).
Over the past decade booming export volumes have soared by more than 200%. It is without doubt an economic colossus, and Australia is the world’s largest exporter of iron ore. But given that global iron ore prices have fallen sharply over the past decade, should Australia try to move away from the sector?
The heart of iron ore extraction in Australia lies in the red, dry dirt of the Pilbara, a sparsely populated region in the north of Western Australia, more than 1,000km (621 miles) from Perth, the state capital.
“Our capacity to function as a government is directly connected to the success of the iron ore sector, so is the entire nation,” says Bill Johnston, Western Australia’s Minister for Mines and Petroleum. “It is genuinely transformational. The iron ore expansion in Western Australia is simply breathtaking.”
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