Iron ore nose-dives, hits fresh lows of $44.6 per tonne

Iron ore nose-dives, hits fresh 6 year lowIron ore prices continued their losing streak Wednesday with the steelmaking raw material dangerously approaching the $40 a tonne-mark, which would put most small and mid-size producers too close to start losing money.

The Chinese import price for 62% iron content fines at the port of Qinqdao lost $5.01 or 10.01% of its value to $44.59 a tonne, the largest percentage drop on record, data from The Metal Bulletin Iron Ore Index shows.

The situation is likely to get worse, say analysts. Brazil, the world’s second largest seaborne producer, unveiled data showing that output continues to increase.

According to figures released by the country’s foreign trade ministry (MDIC) on Tuesday, the country saw iron ore exports to its major consumer market, China, jump up by almost 1.8% in June on an annual basis. Shipments totalled 15.4 million tonnes, compared with 15.13 million tonnes a year earlier.

The extended collapse in prices has eroded gains in the second quarter of the year, when iron ore climbed from a decade-low as producers' shipments missed expectations.

A few months of prices above $60 had given small producers valuable breathing room to keep reducing costs and pushing their break even prices as low as they could.

But analysts agree that the ongoing price collapse will take things back into the danger zone.

UBS estimates of break even prices – the point at which miners neither make or lose money – show there is little room to move. The investment bank puts the breakeven of BC Iron at $52 a tonne, Mount Gibson at around $49, and Fortescue Metals Group at $44 a tonne.

Meanwhile Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill, expected to ship its first ore this September, has an assumed break-even price of $41 a tonne.

(Image: Everett Collection | Shutterstock)

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