Plans by the world's top iron ore miners to knock out high-cost rivals with a flood of cheap ore have had some success, but are meeting resistance where they had hoped to make the biggest inroads - in China.
A large number of small, high-cost Chinese mines have been forced to shut by a collapse in global prices but, overall, domestic output is increasing as the big state-backed producers expand or consolidate.
"Those mines that belong to steel mills or to central government enterprises - and those that were constructed relatively early and where resources are good - all have room for survival," said Lian Minjie, general manager of Sinosteel Mining, a subsidiary of one of China's biggest state trading firms, at an industry conference this month.
After rapid expansion, global miners such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton had expected swathes of high-cost Chinese iron ore capacity to shut, helping to arrest a price decline of around 40 percent this year.
Iron ore ended last week at $81.70 a ton and Li Xinchuang, deputy secretary general of the China Iron and Steel Association, told a conference on Monday it could hover around $80 over the long term. Morgan Stanley has forecast a drop to $70 before a rally to $90 by year-end.
Rio Tinto said this month it expected 125 million tons of capacity to be taken out around the world in 2014 and that 85 million tons had already been cut, notably in China, Indonesia, Iran, South Africa and Australia.
Even so, output in China in the first eight months of 2014 rose 8.5 percent from a year before to a record 986 million tons, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
"Many mines aren't closing down because they are part of the production chain of the big steel mills and they are usually located quite close to the steel production facilities," said a manager with a private iron ore producer in southern China's Hainan province.