Iron is one of the most useful metals discovered by humans, and it has been used since the medieval ages to aid human activity, from farming and animal husbandry to construction and warfare. The many alloys derived from Iron makes it one of the most versatile metals even today. Alloys made from Iron are known as Ferroalloys, and there are desired for their extremely useful properties in various applications, with around 50 million tonnes of ferroalloys being produced every year. Iron has several unique properties that make it desirable for shape tools and implements out of such as its rigidity and workability. It has further properties useful in modern sciences such as magnetism which encourage the refining of Iron to even greater purities. But Iron does not exist in a usable state naturally. It occurs in nature as an oxide (Iron ore) which should be extracted from the ground by mining, and refined and smelted into bars of pure iron which can then be smithed into various tools and implements such as farming tools, horseshoe nails, electronic components, vehicle parts etc. The industrial process of iron extraction is the result of scientific advancement over multiple generations of human activity. Ancient humans worked iron, and we still work iron, albeit much more efficiently and at a much larger scale.

Mining

Iron naturally occurs as its oxides inside the Earth and should be extracted through mining. Iron mining can be done manually or mechanised but in the case of larger mines, it is almost always mechanised. The prospective rock with the ore is dug up and broken apart with picks and drilled through to reach the ore within. Blast mining is a technique which uses explosives to crack open the rock surface which holds the ore.

Smelting

Iron ore naturally occurs as haematite (Fe2O3) or magnetite (Fe3O4 which is in fact a mixture of FeO and Fe2O3). These oxides of iron should be reduced into its pure elemental form to be used as a metal. In the ancient times, this would be done at a smelter which would smelt the iron ore into bars to be worked. These days, this is done using a Blast Furnace which uses Carbon and its oxides as reducing agents to reduce the iron oxide. The source of carbon used is pre-treated coal. The coal, when heated forms carbon monoxide which can reduce the Iron ore into elemental iron. At higher temperatures, the carbon itself can react with and reduce the Iron ore. Various impurities in the iron are also filtered out in the blast furnace with other additives such as limestone. The resulting iron can be used for production of iron implements.

Smithing

Smelted iron is obtained as bars and billets which can be easily reheated and molten into liquid iron, to be poured into casts for production of pure iron equipment or used as inputs in further processing which makes various iron alloys which are then used in production or various tools and implements.

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