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Iron Ore, Nickel and Tin

3 Essential metals for industry

Iron ore is mined in many countries. Brazil, India, Australia, and Russia are the world's largest producers, and together, they account for nearly half of the world's total supply. However, other countries such as China and the United States also produce significant quantities of the mineral. The United States is a leading importer and exporter of iron ore, and other countries like Europe and Japan are important consumers. The production process is mainly done by surface mining, which is more cost-effective than underground mining.

The smelting process requires a temperature well below the melting point of iron to extract the iron. This process results in a sponge-like product called direct-reduced iron, or DRI. After the process, the gangue must be removed in the subsequent steelmaking process. The only iron ore suitable for this process are high-grade ores or pellets produced from super concentrates.

The formation of major iron ore deposits dates back over 1.8 billion years. Prior to photosynthesis, Earth's oceans contained abundant dissolved iron and almost no oxygen. Oxygen combined with the abundant dissolved iron to form hematite and magnetite. These minerals were deposited abundantly on the sea floor. As these minerals were deposited, they formed banded formations. These formations contain varying proportions of silicon and silica, which may have resulted from seasonal changes in organism activity.

iron ore


The fifth-most abundant element on Earth, nickel is mined in over 25 countries. Nickel can be found in many different forms, including nickel sulphides and laterites. Nickel is evenly divided into two classes: Class 1 (99.8 percent nickel) and Class 2 (less than 99.8 percent). These metals have a wide range of uses and demand, but nickel remains one of the most expensive metals.

Stainless steel is the most common end-use of nickel, accounting for over two-thirds of all nickel consumption. Its main uses in this industry include electroplating, decorative coating, and corrosion resistance. Nickel is also well-known as a component of nickel-cadmium batteries, and is becoming increasingly important in the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. It is also used in batteries for solar cells, wind turbines, and more.

Nickel ores are extracted using methods similar to copper extraction. In many cases, sulfide nickel ore is mined underground in combination with copper. During the extraction process, the nickel is separated from the iron and sulfide, yielding nearly 45% pure nickel. This process removes the nickel oxide in the lateritic ore and leaves behind lateritic nickel. Nickel sulfide is refined further by fluid bed roasting.

While nickel is abundant in the Earth's crust, most of it is located deep in the core of the planet. It is found in magmatic sulfide and laterite deposits. Nickel may also be found in manganese crusts and nodules. Because nickel is found in deep geological formations, it is thought to be the fifth most abundant element on Earth. It is important to consider all aspects of nickel mining and extraction.


Tin is a soft, silver-white metal with a very low melting point. It is widely used in electronics, ceramics, pesticides, and fire retardants, and is a major component in many electronic devices. Besides its many industrial applications, tin can also be used in ornamental and decorative objects.

The production of tin takes place in two main stages: mining and processing. First, tin ores are extracted from gravel deposits. Next, the tin ore undergoes chemical filtering. Afterwards, they are separated from rocks and debris using rotating screens. Second, water jets break up the rocks above the water surface. Third, the tin ore is processed by means of classifying tanks. There, it is transported to the next stage of processing.

Once extracted, tin is cleaned with acid and water solutions. The resulting product is filtered, and then pumped to the concentrating plant. It is an extremely complex process. Despite the high cost, the process yields high-quality tin that is highly valuable to the industry.

While tin is an essential industrial metal, its reserves are extremely limited and have a static lifetime of only 22 years. Mining is concentrated in a few countries, and is prone to disruptions. Increasing the use of secondary tin resources could alleviate supply disruptions.