BRUSSELS ( TheStreet) -- Steelmakers in Europe have registered their opinion on the recent revolution in the iron-ore trade: it stinks.

Eurofer, the Brussels-based steel-industry trade group, asked the European Union Wednesday to look into "possible" anti-competitive behavior among the three biggest iron-ore miners in the world: Vale ( VALE), BHP Billiton ( BHP) and Rio Tinto ( RTP).

The protest comes a day after BHP Billiton and Vale announced the effective disamantling of the traditional benchmark pricing system that had structured the iron-ore market, and provided steelmakers with cost stability, for the last 40 years. The miners also won what appears to be a 90% to 100% price increase over the benchmark price of 2009.

In a statement, Eurofer said that its members have seen "strong indications of illicit coordination of prices increases sic and pricing models and pressure on individual steel producers to accept these changes."

The miners' pricing requirements this year, "do not reflect the realities of the steel market and cannot be justified by demand conditions for iron ore," said Eurofer's director general, Gordon Moffat, in the statement.

EU regulators have already launched an investigation into a proposed joint venture between BHP and Rio Tinto, in which the two Anglo-Aussie mining giants and one-time merger partners have agreed to combine their Western Australian iron-ore assets.

The biggest European steelmaker with equity traded in the U.S. is ArcelorMittal ( MT), based in Luxembourg.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York


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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.