Ore deposits are mineral deposits defined as being economically recoverable. Mineral deposits may include those bodies of mineralisation which are uneconomic resources, of too low a grade or tonnage or technically impossible for extraction of the contained metal.
Rare samples of ore in the form of exceptionally beautiful crystals, exotic layering (when sectioned or polished) or metallic presentations such as large nuggets or crystalline formations of metals such as gold or copper may command a value far beyond their value as mere ore or raw metal for subsequent reduction to utilitarian purposes.
Ore is thus an economic entity, not a physical entity. Fluctuations in commodity prices will determine what rock is considered valuable and hence ore, and what rock is not valuable and is considered waste. Similarly, the costs of extraction may fluctuate, for example with fuel costs, rendering mining unprofitable and turning ore into waste.
The grade or contained concentration of an ore mineral, or metal, as well as its form of occurrence, will directly affect the costs associated with mining the ore. The cost of extraction must thus be weighted against the contained metal value of the rock and a 'cut-off grade' used to define what is ore and what is waste.
Ore minerals are generally oxides, sulfides, silicates, or "native" metals (such as native copper) that are not commonly concentrated in the Earth's crust or "noble" metals (not usually forming compounds) such as gold. The ores must be processed to extract the metals of interest from the waste rock and from the ore minerals.
An ore deposit is an accumulation of ore. This is distinct from a mineral resource as defined by the mineral resource classification criteria. An ore deposit is one occurrence of the particular ore type. Most ore deposits are named according to either their location (for example the Witswatersrand, South Africa), or after a discoverer (eg; the kambalda nickel shoots are named after drillers), or after some whimsy, an historical figure, a prominent person, something from mythology (phoenix, kraken, etc) or the code name of the resource company which found it (eg; MKD-5 is the in-house name for the Mount Keith nickel mine).
The basic extraction of ore deposits follows the steps below;
Most base metals (copper, lead, zinc, nickel) are traded internationally on the London Metal Exchange, with smaller stockpiles and metals exchanges monitored by the COMEX and NYMEX exchanges in the United States and the Shanghai Futures Exchange in China.
Iron ore is traded between customer and producer, though various benchmark prices are set yearly between the major mining conglomerates and the major consumers, and this sets the stage for smaller participants.
Other, lesser, commodities do not have international clearing houses and benchmark prices, with most prices negotiated between suppliers and customers one-on-one. This generally makes determining the price of ores of this nature opaque and difficult. Such metals include lithium, niobium-tantalum, bismuth, antimony and rare earths. Most of these commodities are also dominated by one or two major suppliers with >60% of the world's reserves. The London Metal Exchange aims to add uranium to its list of metals on warrant.
The World Bank reports that China was the top importer of ores and metals in 2005 followed by the USA and Japan.
As compared with 2005-2006, at the end of 2007 - beginning of the year 2008 the Iron ore prices on FOB/CIF terms increased considerably, at least at 50-55%. The prices were increased after CVRD, which is the world's biggest iron ore producer, has agreed to increase its contract prices, continuing its previleged position on this market.
Price FOB Brazil reached 141-144 U$D/MT CIF Europe came up to 185-188 U$D/MT.