SINGAPORE, May 8 (Reuters) - Imports of iron ore by China, the world's biggest buyer, in 2024 are expected to be around 1.170 to 1.180 billion metric tons, similar to last year's 1.18 billion tons, a senior official of miner Vale said on Wednesday.

"In the near term, we are still seeing strong resilience in the Chinese economy, although the property market is slowing down in the next few years," Eduardo Mello Franco, marketing manager for pricing at Brazilian mining company Vale told an industry conference in Singapore.

"We see infrastructure for instance is still growing strongly in China," he said, adding that manufacturing is also "performing pretty well in China".

China's iron ore imports in the first quarter of 2024 totalled 310.13 million tons, up 5.5% from a year earlier, customs data showed.

However, China produced 256.55 million tons of crude steel in the first quarter of 2024, down 1.9% year on year.

China's economy grew faster than expected in the first quarter, data showed on Tuesday, offering some relief to officials as they try to shore up growth in the face of protracted weakness in the property sector and mounting local government debt.

On the global front, Franco said world steel production is likely to climb to 2.070 billion metric tons by 2030, from expected 1.9 billion tons.

"I also like to highlight the growth in some emerging regions, like Middle East, India and Southeast Asia. We think these regions will be a big source of growth for the years to come."

Energy transition was also driving growth in steel demand.

"We also have new drivers to push growth of steel production. For new drivers we have to mention energy transition, (which) will require materials and steel will be a very important material in this transition." (Reporting by Naveen Thukral and Amy Lv in Singapore; Editing by Michael Perry)