Forbes writes about the growing competition between China and Japan over iron ore:
Both nations have an acute need for the product. Indeed, it is China’s enormous appetite for iron ore (about 500 million tons a year or more) that has been the major factor behind the recent enormous price increases and profits in the iron-ore industry around the world. Over the last three years alone, members of the iron-ore cartel–Brazil’s CVRD (nyse: RIO – news – people ), Australian-based BHP Billiton (nyse: BBL – news – people ) and British-based Rio Tinto Group (nyse: RTP – news – people )–have raised iron-ore prices by, successively, 70%, 19%, 9.5% and for 2008, an estimated 50%.
Without China’s voracious need for iron ore, such huge price increases would have been impossible. Although China has some iron-ore reserves, the quality and quantity of those reserves is lacking. Japan, like China, is also a net importer of iron ore for its steel industry, as Japan has no domestic reserves. [Full text]
Also related, see “China’s biggest steel group adds voice to global chorus against Rio-BHP deal” from The Times.