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Tuesday, 20 September 1960

Mr Ward d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -

1.   What are the known reserves of iron ore in Australia at the present time?

2.   What percentage of available supplies is regarded as being of high quality?

3.   Where is the high quality iron ore located?

4.   What is the present annual consumption of iron ore in Australia?

5.   What is the annual consumption of iron ore which it is expected Australia will reach in the next ten years?

6.   What estimated period of time will elapse before Australia's known reserves of iron ore are exhausted?

7.   If the ban on the export of iron ore were removed and exports without limit were permitted, what estimated period of time would elapse before Australia's known reserves of iron ore disappeared?

Mr McMahon - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   Demonstrated iron ore reserves are estimated to total 368,000,000 tons. This total comprises those deposits which have been sufficiently tested for a reasonably high degree of reliance to be placed on the estimates of tonnage and grade and which contain a percentage of iron sufficiently large to be usable under present economic conditions. It should be noted, however, that reserves are more than 100,000,000 tons greater now than they were in 1938 when the policy of prohibition of export was adopted, despite the fact that approximately 50,000,000 tons of ore have been mined in the meantime. In addition many deposits and indications of deposits are known that have not been tested, or not tested sufficiently, to permit their inclusion in the category of demonstrated reserves. There are also very large reserves of lower grade ore, much of which (as research by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited suggests) is likely to become commercially usable within a few years.

2.   Of the 368,000,000 tons of "demonstrated reserves ", 308,000,000 tons are considered to have an iron content equal to or greater than 60 per cent, and to contain no harmful impurities.

3.   The main deposits of high-grade ore are located in the Middleback Range area in South Australia and at Yampi Sound and Koolyanobbing, in Western Australia.

4.   The present annual consumption of iron ore is about 4,000,000 tons.

5.   The annual consumption by 1970 is estimated to be of the order of 7,700,000 tons. 6 and 7. Assuming continued increases in annual consumption after 1970, the demonstrated reserves are considered to be sufficient for approximately 30 years local consumption. The life of these reserves would be reduced if export were permitted from them, but a figure cannot be given because it is impossible to assess the rate of export that would be attainable. Undoubtedly, however, long before the 30 years had elapsed additional reserves would have been demonstrated to exist. (See reply to 1.)

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