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* China steel mill iron ore inventories depleting
* Restocking to boost prices (Adds detail)
HEFEI, China, Oct 21 (Reuters) - China’s iron ore imports are expected to rise for the rest of the year as steel mills embark on a period of restocking, a mining association official said on Thursday.
Xu Xu, the chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters, said inventories were already running low.
“Chinese domestic steel mills have curbed purchases because of previous high inventories and prices, and now they need to replenish as stocks and prices fall, which will support iron ore imports for the fourth quarter,” he said.
The China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) said earlier this year that high imported iron ore prices would serve to encourage local miners to step up production.
China produced a total of 93.55 million tonnes of iron ore in September, up 9.4 percent year on year but down 6.1 percent compared with August, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Thursday. [ID:nAPI000648]
Total domestic ore output over the first nine months rose 25.9 percent to reach 780.24 million tonnes, but iron content in China is generally far lower than overseas.
China’s iron ore imports in September stood at 52.6 million tonnes, up 17.9 percent compared to the August figure, which was the lowest in 20 months.
For the first nine months, the total stood at 457.6 million tonnes, down 2.5 percent compared to the corresponding period of 2009.
CISA chairman Shan Shanghua said in September that total ore imports in 2010 were likely to be lower than the record 627.8 million tonnes shipped to China last year. [ID:nBJI002389] (Reporting by Ruby Lian and David Stanway, Editing by Michael Urquhart)