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Iron ore is a combination of minerals from which metallic iron can be extracted on an economic basis.

Baffinland’s Mary River Mine site on Baffin Island, Nunavut, consists of nine-plus high-grade iron ore deposits. Photo: Baffinland

Canada is among the world’s top ten producers of iron ore. Most of Canada’s iron ore comes from the Labrador Trough region, along the border between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, and from Nunavut, according to Natural Resources Canada.

Steel is the primary use of iron ore (98%). Steel is needed to build cities, homes, roads and bridges, and for making vehicles and appliances, and much more!

The remaining 2% is used for:

  • Powdered iron, for certain types of steels, magnets, auto parts and catalysts
  • Radioactive iron (iron 59), for medicine and as a tracer element in biochemical and metallurgical research
  • Iron blue, in paints, printing ink, plastics, cosmetics (e.g., eye shadow), artist colours, laundry blue, paper dyeing, fertilizer, baked enamel finishes on vehicles and appliances, and industrial finishes
  • Black iron oxide, as a pigment in polishing compounds, metallurgy, medicine, magnetic inks, and ferrites for the electronics industry
Iron ore from the Mary River Mine is shipped from the site’s Milne port. Photo: Baffinland

Steel is 100% recyclable, which means it can be reprocessed into material of the same quality again and again. Recycling produces significant savings in energy and raw materials. Each recycled tonne of scrap steel saves more than 1,400 kilograms of iron ore, 740 kilograms of coking coal and 120 kilograms of limestone.

Electric arc furnaces allow steel to be made from 100% scrap metal feedstock. This greatly reduces the energy required to make steel, compared with primary steelmaking from ore. The increasing shift toward the use of electric arc furnaces in the manufacture of steel will support the global market for steel scrap, which is projected to reach 755 million tonnes by 2024.

Canadian mine production (shipments) of iron ore, by province and territory, 2018. Source: NRCan