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Rio Tinto invests $143m in low-carbon ironmaking R&D facility

Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Simon Trott

Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Simon Trott

4th June 2024

By: Creamer Media Reporter

     

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Mining giant Rio Tinto has announced a $143-million investment to establish a research and development (R&D) facility in Western Australia to test the effectiveness of its low-carbon ironmaking process, BioIron.

The development of the new BioIron R&D facility, located in the Rockingham Strategic Industrial Area outside Perth, follows successful trials of the ironmaking process at a small-scale pilot plant in Germany.

BioIron uses raw biomass and microwave energy instead of coal to convert Pilbara iron-ore into metallic iron during steel production. When combined with renewable-energy sources and the rapid growth of biomass, the BioIron process has the potential to cut carbon emissions by up to 95% compared with traditional blast furnace methods.

The facility will feature a pilot plant ten times larger than its German predecessor, marking the first semi-industrial scale test of the technology. Capable of producing one tonne of direct reduced iron per hour, the plant will generate essential data for scaling up the technology to a larger demonstration plant.

In collaboration with the University of Nottingham, Metso and Western Australian engineering company Sedgman Onyx, the facility's design and fabrication will start this year, with commissioning expected in 2026. The construction phase is expected to create up to 60 jobs.

Once operational, the R&D facility will employ about 30 full-time staff and include equipment testing spaces to further advance BioIron technology. It will also foster a highly skilled workforce in steel decarbonisation, benefitting Western Australian universities and research organisations.

“The world needs low-carbon steel to reach net zero, and we are working to make this a reality by finding better ways to turn our Pilbara ores into steel. BioIron is a world-first technology that has the potential to play a significant role in a low-carbon steel future,” said Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Simon Trott.

Western Australian Premier Roger Cook highlighted the strategic importance of the project, noting, “As one of the world’s largest iron-ore producers, it just makes sense for WA to lead the world when it comes to low-emission steelmaking. Our plan to turn WA into a renewable-energy powerhouse opens up massive economic opportunities for the future, like producing low-emission steel right here at home.”

The Premier added, “Processing iron-ore in WA will create jobs, reduce the world’s carbon emissions, and help diversify and strengthen our economy for decades to come. This is another job-creating clean energy project in our industrial heartland of Kwinana and Rockingham, part of our commitment to transitioning the industrial strip to a clean energy future.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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