The prices for iron ore imported into Northern China (CFR Qingdao) nearly reached $189 per dry metric ton (dmt) on Tuesday, April 27. The prices are approaching the record level of $192/dmt from February 2011. Chinese steel mills continue to ramp up production while first quarter production from the big three iron ore producers — Rio Tinto, Vale and BHP — declines.

Vale reported its first-quarter figures on Monday, April 26 and those numbers were below expectations. Vale’s iron ore production for the first quarter dropped 19.5% to 68 million dmt from 84.5 million dmt for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Rio Tinto’s first-quarter 2021 iron ore shipments were down 12% to 77.8 million dmt.

BHP reported 59.9 million dmt for the first quarter compared to 62.4 million dmt in the fourth quarter of 2020.