Iron fulfills numerous purposes, each vastly diverse from one
another. It is an essential product to the operation and success of many
industries, from construction industries, to medicine and health, and art and
Iron is a transition element in the periodic table and has the
chemical symbol "Fe”. Mineral ores comprised of iron oxides are the main
resource for mining iron, as deposits of pure metallic iron is uncommonly
found. Hematite, and magnetite are typical examples of iron oxide ores.
Hematite and magnetite are usually found as layers within banded
iron formations, or BIFs. BIFs are collections of sedimentary rock from the
early Proterozoic Era. Other mineral layers constituting BIFs are:
BIFs are available around the world but those rich in hematite
ores are usually mined in southern regions like:
BIFs rich in magnetite ores, sometimes called taconite ores, are
more commonly mined in northern regions like Canada and the United States.
Alternatives to Iron Mining
Iron is the second most important international commodity, the
first being oil. As with any natural resource in high demand, issues of supply
are relevant, whether it be a present problem, or an imminent concern for the
Currently, there is no form that can ultimately replace iron.
However, alternatives to mining iron are being practiced today. Recycling scrap
steel materials has proven to be a successful substitute for iron mining. Steel
has the highest recycling rate of all metal materials, with a rate of 67 per cent.
While an impressive number of steel and iron products are fabricated using
recycled steel, recycled iron is a less common alternative as it is not yet
Uses of Iron
Whether mined or recycled, iron enables the production of several
products. The majority of iron ores are used to manufacture steel. To be exact,
98 per cent of all iron ores are directed to steelmaking firms. While the
remaining portion of iron ore uses may seem minimal, it is actually quite
significant to the routines of daily life. For instance, powdered iron is
required for the production of magnets, and automobile parts. Radioactive iron
is necessary for medicinal purposes, while iron blue is used in colour
everything from paints and inks, to cosmetics, plastics, paper, and even
laundry detergent. Meanwhile, iron arsenate is a common ingredient of
insecticides, and iron hydroxide is used in many water purification systems.
Other uses of iron include:
Machines and equipment used
within construction industries, and automotive industries
Production of ammonia via
the Haber-Bosch process
Production of synthetic
lubrication oil and synthetic fuel via the Fischer-Tropsch process
It is apparent that iron is an essential mineral product to the
economic health of many markets and countries, as it is applicable to many uses
and is able to assume many forms. As a result, the iron mining industry, and
iron and steel manufacturing industries, are successful markets since their
products are in high demand. However, it is important to remember that iron is
a natural resource, and as with any other natural resource used for commercial
success, issues of supply and demand are almost always expected.