JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) - Commercialisation of the Finesmelt technology, which makes use of a large stockpile of iron-bearing magnetite material on surface at Palabora Mining in Limpopo, appears imminent.
“We’re going to commission it this month,” Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) mining and beneficiation industry champion Dave Cousins told the International Mining and Metals third African Iron Ore conference in Cape Town this week, noting that the process makes use of thermal coal and does not require expensive coking coal.
“It’s an efficient process and we’ve got high hopes and great expectations for this project,” Cousins added.
The IDC owns 33% of the shares of Iron Mineral Beneficiation Services (IMBS), which plans to grow the initial 50 000 t/y pilot plant in modules to 500 000 t/y.
IMBS is headed by CEO John Beachy Head, who has driven the project from its inception three years ago.
The technology to produce the cold-briquetted metallic iron has access to 240-million surface tons of 58%-iron magnetite, which has arisen at Palabora from decades of mining activity.
The process self-generates sufficient energy to run the operation, making it possible to go to remote locations, bring thermal coal in and take iron out.
The IMBS technology is tailored to supply a ferrous scrap supplement to the growing electric arc furnace steelmaking market.
IMBS's five-year vision is to be producing one-million tons of metallic iron in South Africa, with a plan for another million tons and, internationally, to have a two-million-ton-a-year plant in operation, going to ten-million tons.
“From the South African perspective, once we have a lot of metallic iron available, we can base an entire steel industry on it.
“We can create massive employment downstream from that and, instead of selling iron-ore, we can sell a highly valuable product.
“Effectively, if we produced the equivalent of the 35-million tons of iron-ore being produced a year in South Africa as metallic iron, it would change the face of what we do,” Beachy Head has told Mining Weekly Online in previous interviews.
Large Russian mining and steel company OAO Severstal has bought into the technology.
“The project looked quite different to this when the technology owner IMBS came to us.
“It is with IDC’s experience and the understanding of the moving puzzle pieces that it was moved away from using electricity to using the offgases to produce an iron product that is a scrap substitute,” Cousins told the conference.