March 20, 2012 / 11:08 PM / 5 years ago

Australia iron ore exports to rise

SYDNEY, March 21 (Reuters) - Australian iron ore exports will rise by more than 50 percent by 2016/17 compared with last year, government data released on Wednesday showed, anticipating still strong demand from Chinese steel mills, the biggest buyers.

Exports will rise by an annual rate of around 11 percent to reach 767 m illion tonnes i n 2016/17, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) predicted on Wednesday.

Iron ore has sold for between $130 and $147 a tonne over the last four months, which mega-producers such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have said is high enough to warrant investment in new mines.

BHP Billiton, the world's biggest miner, said on Tuesday it was seeing signs of "flattening" iron ore demand from China, though it was pushing ahead with ambitious plans to expand production.

Global iron ore demand is set to double to around 3.5 billion tonnes a year by 2030, with Chinese appetite for the steel-making material continuing to drive the market, albeit at a slower pace, according to Perth-based Intierra Resource Intelligence.

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