Iron ore

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Iron ores are rocks and minerals from which metallic iron can be economically extracted. The ores are usually rich in iron oxides and vary in color from dark grey, bright yellow, deep purple, to rusty red. The iron itself is usually found in the form of magnetite (Fe3O4), hematite (Fe2O3), goethite (FeO(OH)), limonite (FeO(OH).n(H2O)) or siderite (FeCO3). Hematite is also known as "natural ore", a name which refers to the early years of mining, when certain hematite ores containing up to 66% iron could be fed directly into iron-making blast furnaces. Iron ore is the raw material used to make pig iron, which is one of the main raw materials to make steel. 98% of the mined iron ore is used to make steel.[1] Indeed, it has been argued that iron ore is "more integral to the global economy than any other commodity, except perhaps oil”.[2]

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Metallic iron is virtually unknown on the surface of the Earth except as iron-nickel alloys from meteorites and very rare forms of deep mantle xenoliths. Although iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, comprising about 5%, the vast majority is bound in silicate or more rarely carbonate minerals. The thermodynamic barriers to separating pure iron from these minerals are formidable and energy intensive, therefore all sources of iron used by human industry exploit comparatively rarer iron oxide minerals, the primary form which is used being hematite.

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