Rusting out: Iron ore at a crossroads

The iron ore sector has been beset by price discounting, and now "high-grading" is taking hold.

What you see is never quite what you get with iron ore, a function of it being ore of variable grade and not metal. But two recent additions to an already complex pricing structure spell more bad news for small miners: discounting and high-grading.

The discounting problem is getting some air time, courtesy of the biggest iron ore miners emptying a bucket on smaller rivals, with Rio Tinto boss, Sam Walsh, and BHP Billiton marketing president, Mike Henry, doing the tipping this week.

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