Photo/IllutrationFrom high up, the grounds of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.’s Kashima Works look like paints on a palette with various colored minerals on April 9 at Kamisu, Ibaraki Prefecture. (Takayuki Kakuno)

KAMISU, Ibaraki Prefecture--From a bird's-eye view, the grounds of a steel company here look like paints on a giant's palette.

The colorful image from up high comes from heaps of various colored iron ores and lime lined up in the corner of Kashima Port.

After being mixed, baked, melted and solidified, they will be transformed into iron.

The grounds of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.’s Kashima Works, along with the port, is sprawled over about 10 million square meters. Crude steel production reaches 7.18 million tons annually here.

Even in the same iron ores, the colors can look different depending on where they were produced and what state they are in, for example, in the form of sand or solid, and if water has been added.

To insure that each source of iron ore, which comes from countries such as Australia or Brazil, is of high quality and to evenly balance out the finished product, it is necessary to “blend” them.

Iron produced by about 13,000 workers in the round-the-clock operation is used for making cars, buildings or bridges in and outside of Japan.