Iron ore price claims another scalp

The price of iron ore built consolidated recent gains on Friday with limited action due to a public holiday in benchmark price-setting Singapore.

Yesterday the benchmark 62% Fe import price including freight and insurance at the Chinese port of Tianjin added 2.8% to $58.50 a tonne, a fresh 10-week high according to data provided by The SteelIndex.

Iron ore is now trading 30% above record lows for the spot market hit July 8, but the rally has done little for smaller players which has had to deal with a 18% year to date slump coming after 2014's 47% drop in the price.

Platts reports Northern Iron on Friday warned investors of 'material uncertainty' over future cash flow at the Australia-listed producer. In addition the company said it hasn't been able to restructure its debt and is working to secure additional funding.

Northern Iron's Norwegian mine is not huge – just over 2 million tonnes per annum – but typical of the small and mid-tier operators is struggling to survive amid the Big Three scorched earth expansion strategies.

Northern Iron made a consolidated net loss of $33.9 million in the January-June 2015 period, with average sales prices falling from $86 per tonne (FOB Kirkenes) in the first half of 2014 to $47. Coming on top of a 19% decline in sales to 970,000 it led to a 58% drop in revenues to $45.3 million.

Despite cutting costs by nearly 30% this year the company is still producing at a loss-making $52 a tonne.