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Highlights

Elevated iron ore spot prices may see an eventual decline as iron ore supply normalizes from Brazil, more scrap is used in China and its industrial output slows, speakers at the S&P Global Platts Steel Markets Europe conference said.

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Iron ore spot prices may fall from over $100/dry mt CFR China currently to reach a long-term price of around $60/mt eventually, down to the cash cost of better quality iron ore mines, Marcel Genet, managing director of strategy consultancy Laplace Conseil, said at the conference in Barcelona Thursday.

Iron ore benchmark prices are directly shaped by China's demand and consumption due to its leading role in steel output, he said.

The Vale disaster at the Brumadinho tailing dam late January had led to a cut in iron ore supplies, and a spike in spot prices. The conference panelists were unable to state when they foresaw iron ore prices falling.

A decline in iron ore pricing would be dependent on "China growing less fast," and more scrap being used, with rising iron ore production and shipments in Brazil and Australia, Genet said.

China produced 85 million mt of crude steel in April, up 12.7% on a year earlier and exceeding a billion tons on an annualized basis, according to World Steel Association data.

The high year-on-year growth has come with surprise and scrutiny, given earlier expectations of slower growth or declining output trends.

China's closure of induction furnace iron capacity and move to build new electric arc furnaces (EAFs) in the future, are notable trends which may help reduce dependency on iron ore and boost scrap consumption, Vijay Thangavelu, a steel industry consultant at VT Advisory, said at the event.

Trends in iron ore prices and tight availability of pellet feed, and less high grade scrap available in the market, may foresee an extended period of scarcity in DRI and HBI metallics against demand and higher costs, said Rafik Namir, executive for raw materials procurement at Morocco's Maghreb Steel.

Tight availability of metallics may be prolonged, based on iron ore and steel market trends, Namir told the conference.

Commonwealth of Independent States metallics producers are more flexible with sales and there is always potential for unstable metallics supplies if they decide to produce more steel with captive iron supplies, VT Advisory's Thangavelu said.

DRI and HBI is used to make steel with ferrous scrap at mini mills, and can improve qualities so producers can meet various steel types and standards.

-- Hector Forster, hector.forster@spglobal.com

-- Edited by James Leech, newsdesk@spglobal.com