BC's Critical Mineral Strategy: Unlocking a Generational Opportunity

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What is Iron?

Iron is a shiny, greyish metal that rusts in damp air. It has the symbol Fe and atomic number 26 on the periodic chart. Iron, by mass, is the most common element on Earth, right in front of oxygen, and the fourth most common element in the Earth’s crust. Although iron readily reacts, high purity iron, called electrolytic iron, has better corrosion resistance.

Iron is also naturally found in many foods and food additives as well as a dietary supplement. It is a necessary component of hemoglobin in the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. An adult human contains about 4 grams, mostly in hemoglobin and myoglobin. 

Iron Uses
  • Iron is an oddity – even though it rusts easily, it is the most important of all metals. Ninety percent of all metal that is refined today is iron.
  • High purity iron is used as a pigment.
  • Mostly used in the manufacture of steel, civil engineering (reinforced concrete, girders etc) and in manufacturing.
  • Many different types of steel with different properties and uses:
    • Garden variety carbon steel is an alloy of iron with carbon, with small amounts of other elements.
    • Alloy steels are carbon steels with other additives such as nickel, chromium, vanadium, tungsten and manganese. They are stronger and tougher than carbon steels and have a wide catalog of uses such as bridges, electricity pylons, bicycle chains, cutting tools and rifle barrels.
    • Stainless steel is very resistant to corrosion. It is used in architecture, bearings, cutlery, surgical instruments and jewelry.
    • Cast iron is used for pipes, valves and pumps. Not as tough as steel but cheaper.
  • Magnets can be made of iron and its alloys and compounds.
  • Iron catalysts are used in the production of ammonia, and converting syngas (hydrogen and carbon monoxide) into liquid fuels.
  • Iron is non-toxic and critically important for all forms of life as it is essential in carrying oxygen in the blood to the cells.