(Adds Chinese iron ore import data, background)
Nov 4 (Reuters) - The long talked of tie-up of mining giants BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) and Rio Tinto (RIO.AX)'s Western Australian iron ore assets would propel the duo to the top of the global trade, edging out current number one Brazil's Vale (VALE.N) VALE5.SA.
Based on 2008 data from Swedish consultancy, Raw Materials Group, Rio controls 18.6 percent of the world's seaborne trade while BHP Billiton's share is 17.1 percent.
For a graphic of market share, please see: here
For a timeline of the deal see [ID:nSP492338]
For a factbox on the proposed joint venture see [ID:nSYD413783]
The key ingredient in steel-making, iron ore is shipped from mines in top exporters Australia and Brazil to consumers such as China, which takes almost half the globe's production, and numbers two and three -- Japan and South Korea.
China's appetite for iron ore rose 35.7 percent in the first nine months of the year to 469.4 million tonnes and demand from steelmakers elsewhere may also be on the rise.
On Wednesday, India's Tata Steel Ltd (TISC.BO), the world's eighth-largest steel maker, said it expected its European unit Corus to be operating at full capacity by the end of the fiscal year in March.
Corus, Europe's second-largest steelmaker, operated at 80 percent capacity in October, Vice Chairman B. Muthuraman told reporters at an industry conference. [ID:nBOM387514]
For a factbox on the world's top five iron ore buyers and suppliers see [ID:nSP408660] The following table shows what the new top five of corporations which dominate the world's seaborne trade of iron ore would look like if Rio and BHP combine. RANK---COMPANY------------COUNTRY-------SHARE OF SEABORNE TRADE (PERCENT) 1. Rio+BHP Anglo/Australian 35.7 2. Vale Brazil
32.9 3. Kumba Resources South Africa
3.1 4. Fortescue Australia 2.4 5.
LKAB Sweden 2.2
Source: Raw Materials Group 2009, based on 2008 production
(Reporting by Gillian Murdoch; Editing by Nick Trevethan)