National Minerals Information Center

Iron and Steel Statistics and Information

The element iron (Fe) is one of the most abundant on earth, but it does not occur in nature in useful metallic form.   Iron ore is the term applied to a natural iron-bearing mineral in which the content of iron is sufficient to be commercially usable.  Metallic iron, from which steel is derived, must be extracted from iron ore.  By definition, steel is a combination of iron with a small amount of carbon.   Thousands of products having various chemical composition, forms, and sizes are made of iron and steel by casting, forging, and rolling processes.  Iron and steel comprise about 95 percent of all the tonnage of metal produced annually in the United States and the world.   On the average, iron and steel are by far the least expensive of the world's metals.  In some applications no other materials are suitable, such as steel framing for large buildings, because of strength requirements.

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Christopher A Tuck

Mineral Commodity Specialist, Physical Scientist
National Minerals Information Center
Phone: 703-648-4912