BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have offered contrasting opinions on the demand outlook for iron ore exports.

BHP, Rio differ on iron ore outlook

BHP Billiton says growth in Chinese demand for iron ore appears to be flattening out but fellow mining giant Rio Tinto is expecting Chinese demand to outstrip supply over the next seven years.

Dismissing concerns about a slow-down in China's economy, BHP Billiton Iron Ore president Ian Ashby says he's confident the Asian superpower will meet its five-year economic growth targets.

"The pie is big and they are still growing their steel industry," Mr Ashby told reporters on the sidelines of the Global Iron Ore and Steel Conference in Perth.

Growth in Chinese demand for iron ore had in recent years been in double digits, but would slip into single digits "if it's not already there", Mr Ashby said.

A Fairfax report this morning noted that chairman Jacques Nasser had told investors the miner was re-evaluating its big spending plans amid a more cautious outlook for commodities demand.

Mr Ashby indicated that BHP Billiton hadn't made any decision yet, but was poised to respond to slowing demand.

"We haven't slowed down any of the work that allows us to make a decision."

Mr Ashby said he expected China's steel production capacity would reach up to 1.1 billion tonnes by 2025, up from about 700 million tonnes currently.

He would not comment specifically on the outlook for the iron ore price, but said there was a "floor" at $US120 per tonne, compared to about $US145/t currently, based on the cost of Chinese domestic iron ore production.

Rio Tinto said the world's iron ore mines needed to produce an extra 100 million tonnes (Mt) annually to meet Chinese demand for the next seven years.


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