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Visualizing the World’s Largest Iron Ore Producers

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Iron Ore Producers

Visualizing the World’s Largest Iron Ore Producers

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Iron ore comprised roughly 93% of the 2.7 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2021.

It is used primarily (98%) to make steel, with the remaining 2% becoming magnets, auto parts, and catalysts.

Using data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the above infographic lists the world’s largest iron ore producers in 2021.

Pilbara and Carajás Iron Ore

Iron is the fourth most abundant element on the planet after oxygen, silicon, and aluminum, constituting about 5% of the Earth’s crust.

Australia produced 35% of the iron ore mined last year. Almost 90% of identified iron ore resources in the country occur in Western Australia, especially in the Pilbara region.

The large and dry region is known for its Aboriginal peoples and also for its red earth as a result of a chemical reaction of iron exposed to air and water. The three major Pilbara iron ore producers are also among the top mining companies in the world: BHP Group, Rio Tinto Ltd, and Fortescue Metals.

Country2021 Production (Tonnes)
🇦🇺 Australia900,000,000
🇧🇷 Brazil380,000,000
🇨🇳 China360,000,000
🇮🇳 India240,000,000
🇷🇺 Russia100,000,000
🇺🇦 Ukraine81,000,000
🇨🇦 Canada68,000,000
🇿🇦 South Africa61,000,000
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan64,000,000
🇮🇷 Iran50,000,000
🇺🇸 United States46,000,000
🇸🇪 Sweden40,000,000
🇨🇱 Chile19,000,000
🇲🇽 Mexico17,000,000
🇵🇪 Peru16,000,000
🇹🇷 Turkey16,000,000
🌐 Other countries90,000,000

After Australia, Brazil is the second biggest producer, with iron ore accounting for 80% of the country’s mining exports.

Brazil’s biggest public company, Vale, is the world’s largest producer of iron ore and nickel. The company runs the Carajás mine, the largest iron ore mine in the world. Located in the state of Pará, in the north of the country, the mine is operated as an open-pit mine and is estimated to contain roughly 7.2 billion metric tons of iron ore.

Together, Australia and Brazil dominate the world’s iron ore exports, each having about one-third of total exports.

China is the largest consumer of iron ore, used to feed its steel industry.

Despite being the third largest producer, China still imports around 80% of the iron ore it uses each year. The country brought in 1.12 billion tonnes of the commodity last year.

Iron Ore’s Role in the Green Economy

Iron ore demand is expected to rise in the coming years as steel plays a crucial role in producing and distributing energy.

Steel is used extensively in agriculture, solar and wind power, and also in infrastructure for hydroelectric.

Furthermore, steel is used for the production of transformers, generators, and electric motors, along with ships, trucks, and trains.

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Ranked: The World’s Top Diamond Mining Countries, by Carats and Value

Who are the leaders in rough diamond production and how much is their diamond output worth?

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A cropped chart showing the leaders in rough diamond mining and how much their diamond output is worth.

Ranked: World Diamond Mining By Country, Carat, and Value

Only 22 countries in the world engage in rough diamond production—also known as uncut, raw or natural diamonds—mining for them from deposits within their territories.

This chart, by Sam Parker illustrates the leaders in rough diamond production by weight and value. It uses data from Kimberly Process (an international certification organization) along with estimates by Dr. Ashok Damarupurshad, a precious metals and diamond specialist in South Africa.

Rough Diamond Production, By Weight

Russia takes the top spot as the world’s largest rough diamond producer, mining close to 42 million carats in 2022, well ahead of its peers.

ℹ️ Carat is the unit of measurement for the physical weight of diamonds. One carat equals 0.200 grams, which means it takes over 2,265 carats to equal 1 pound.

Russia’s large lead over second-place Botswana (24.8 million carats) and third-ranked Canada (16.2 million carats) indicates that the country’s diamond production is circumventing sanctions due to the difficulties in tracing a diamond’s origin.

Here’s a quick breakdown of rough diamond production in the world.

RankCountryRough Diamond
Production (Carats)
1🇷🇺 Russia41,923,910
2🇧🇼 Botswana24,752,967
3🇨🇦 Canada16,249,218
4🇨🇩 DRC9,908,998
5🇿🇦 South Africa9,660,233
6🇦🇴 Angola8,763,309
7🇿🇼 Zimbabwe4,461,450
8🇳🇦 Namibia2,054,227
9🇱🇸 Lesotho727,737
10🇸🇱 Sierra Leone688,970
11🇹🇿 Tanzania375,533
12🇧🇷 Brazil158,420
13🇬🇳 Guinea128,771
14🇨🇫 Central
African Republic
118,044
15🇬🇾 Guyana83,382
16🇬🇭 Ghana82,500
17🇱🇷 Liberia52,165
18🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire3,904
19🇨🇬 Republic of Congo3,534
20🇨🇲 Cameroon2,431
21🇻🇪 Venezuela1,665
22🇲🇱 Mali92
Total120,201,460

Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated.

As with most other resources, (oil, gold, uranium), rough diamond production is distributed unequally. The top 10 rough diamond producing countries by weight account for 99.2% of all rough diamonds mined in 2022.

Diamond Mining, by Country

However, higher carat mined doesn’t necessarily mean better value for the diamond. Other factors like the cut, color, and clarity also influence a diamond’s value.

Here’s a quick breakdown of diamond production by value (USD) in 2022.

RankCountryRough Diamond
Value (USD)
1🇧🇼 Botswana$4,975M
2🇷🇺 Russia$3,553M
3🇦🇴 Angola$1,965M
4🇨🇦 Canada$1,877M
5🇿🇦 South Africa$1,538M
6🇳🇦 Namibia$1,234M
7🇿🇼 Zimbabwe$424M
8🇱🇸 Lesotho$314M
9🇸🇱 Sierra Leone$143M
10🇹🇿 Tanzania$110M
11🇨🇩 DRC$65M
12🇧🇷 Brazil$30M
13🇱🇷 Liberia$18M
14🇨🇫 Central
African Republic
$15M
15🇬🇾 Guyana$14M
16🇬🇳 Guinea$6M
17🇬🇭 Ghana$3M
18🇨🇲 Cameroon$0.25M
19🇨🇬 Republic of Congo$0.20M
20🇨🇮 Cote D'Ivoire$0.16M
21🇻🇪 Venezuela$0.10M
22🇲🇱 Mali$0.06M
Total$16,290M

Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated. Furthermore, numbers have been rounded and may not sum to the total.

Thus, even though Botswana only produced 59% of Russia’s diamond weight in 2022, it had a trade value of nearly $5 billion, approximately 1.5 times higher than Russia’s for the same year.

Another example is Angola, which is ranked 6th in diamond production, but 3rd in diamond value.

Both countries (as well as South Africa, Canada, and Namibia) produce gem-quality rough diamonds versus countries like Russia and the DRC whose diamonds are produced mainly for industrial use.

Which Regions Produce the Most Diamonds in 2022?

Unsurprisingly, Africa is the largest rough diamond producing region, accounting for 51% of output by weight, and 66% by value.

RankRegionShare of Rough
Diamond Production (%)
Share of Rough
Diamond Value (%)
1Africa51.4%66.4%
2Europe34.9%32.9%
3North America13.5%52.8%
4South America0.2%2.4%

However diamond mining in Africa is a relatively recent phenomenon, fewer than 200 years old. Diamonds had been discovered—and prized—as far back as 2,000 years ago in India, later on spreading west to Egyptian pharaohs and the Roman Empire.

By the start of the 20th century, diamond production on a large scale took off: first in South Africa, and decades later in other African countries. In fact between 1889–1959, Africa produced 98% of the world’s diamonds.

And in the latter half of the 20th century, the term blood diamond evolved from diamonds mined in African conflict zones used to finance insurgency or crime.

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