Australia's smaller iron ore miners are struggling to keep their heads above water as the price of the steel-making commodity hits a fresh post-global financial crisis low.
The price of Australia’s biggest export fell more than two per cent to $US52.90 overnight following a four per cent fall the previous day.
Junior and mid-tier miners are having to reassess their costs as the world’s biggest iron ore miners continue flooding the market despite a softening in Chinese demand. Morgan Ball, the chief executive of junior Pilbara producer BC Iron, says his company is planning more cost reductions after recently meeting with Chinese steel mills.
“Clearly there is a significant supply influx still to come primarily out of Vale and Roy Hill in the short-term and that’s why we’re setting our business up for a couple of years, but we think we can operate through that,” Mr Ball told AAP.
“We have more costs to take out of the business that will help us through this period.”
Mr Ball said there were no plans to make further cuts to staff as he keeps a close eye on how many Chinese domestic mines reopen after winter. Still, there could be some support for the iron ore price after China’s central bank eased restrictions on down-payments for second homes and cut taxes to boost its housing market.
“It all helps,” Mr Ball said.
“I think we’ll see more of those kind of initiatives.”
He added that mills and traders in China, India and Indonesia would prefer to deal with more than two or three companies.
Fortescue Metal’s chairman Andrew Forrest last week called for a cap on iron ore production, sparking an investigation by the competition watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims will focus on cartel conduct in government procurement and in the commodities market, particularly iron ore in the year ahead.
“Mr Forrest has helpfully made that an important issue for us,” Mr Sims told a business briefing in Perth.
“As someone who has been watching the mining industry for 40 years, I’m staggered that people don’t realise that prices go up, people invest, production comes on, prices go down.”
But he said it was hard to prove an attempt to illegally cap production.