Annual iron ore exports from Port Hedland hit another record high

Rio Tinto’s iron ore mine near Karratha in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. (Photo by Aaron Bunch/Getty Images)

Iron ore exports from Port Hedland — the world’s largest iron ore loading terminal — fell for a third consecutive month in October, according to new figures from the Pilbara Ports Authority.

Shipments totaled 41.156 million tonnes, down 1% on October.

Despite three consecutive monthly declines, total throughput remains near the record high of 42.875 million tonnes shipped in August this year.

Total exports were also up 10.2% from a year earlier, taking the total amount shipped over the past 12 months to 472.5 million tonnes, the highest annual total on record.

To put that figure into perspective, annual throughput in November 2011 — just five years ago — was 213 million tonnes — more than doubling in five years.

The vast majority is going to China. According to the port, exports to the nation totaled 393 million tonnes over the past year, accounting for 38% of China’s total iron ore imports over that period.

In November, iron ore exports to China came in at 33.7 million tonnes, down 4% on the levels of October.

The port handles iron ore produced by Fortescue Metals, BHP Billiton and Gina Rinehart’s majority-owned Roy Hill mine.

About the only thing rising faster than iron ore exports from Port Hedland are the prices being paid for it.

According to Metal Bulletin, the spot price for benchmark 62% fines rose by 2.4% to $US83.58 a tonne on Monday, leaving it at the highest level seen since October 14, 2014.

So far in 2016, it’s added 91.8%, extending the gain over the past year to 118%.

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