Tag Archives: iron ore pellets

Metso Outotec captures fourth Chinese iron ore pellet plant order in 10 months

Metso Outotec has signed yet another contract to deliver its “environmentally sound” pelletising technology with Beijing Shougang International Engineering Technology Co Ltd (BSIET).

The greenfield iron ore pelletising plant to be located in Qingdao, China, will be operated by Qingdao Bangtuo New Materials Technology Co Ltd.

While the order value has not been disclosed, the contract has been booked into the company’s Metals’ June quarter orders received.

Mr Li, General Manager of BSIET’s Metallurgy Division, said: “Plant reliability and sustainable performance are key for all new pelletising plants being built in China. Metso Outotec’s technology has proven its excellence in several plants already, making it a good option for leading-edge pellet plants.

“Fast delivery time is also important. For example, the Bangtuo project will be completed within 17 months, including all steps from engineering to commissioning.”

Metso Outotec’s scope of delivery covers the engineering and design of the indurating system, engineering of the process gas fan system, supply of proprietary equipment, instrumentation and control systems, as well as supervisory services and technical training. The Qingdao Bangtuo plant targets annual production of 4 Mt of pellets, with production expected to start in 2022.

Attaul H Ahmad, Vice President, Ferrous & Heat Transfer business line at Metso Outotec, said: “We’d like to take this opportunity to thank BSIET and our customers in China for their trust in Metso Outotec’s sustainable technology. This is the fourth pellet plant order in China we’ve received within 10 months, doubling our local pellet plant reference base from the four in operation amounting to almost 15 Mt of annual capacity to be built within the next two years.”

Metso Outotec’s traveling grate technology used in the pelletising plants ensures high performance and quality while significantly decreasing energy consumption and emissions, the company says.

Metso Outotec’s iron ore pelletising tech heading to BSIET’s ops in China

Metso Outotec has signed a contract with Beijing Shougang International Engineering Technology Co Ltd (BSIET) on the delivery of “environmentally-sound” technology for an iron ore pelletising plant to be built in southwest China.

Metso Outotec’s scope of delivery covers the engineering and design of the indurating system, engineering of the process gas fan system, supply of proprietary and key process equipment, instrumentation and control systems, as well as supervisory services and technical training. The core of the plant is Metso Outotec’s traveling grate pellet indurating furnace with a grate area of 432 sq.m.

Tobias Stefan, Vice President, Ferrous & Heat Transfer business line at Metso Outotec, said: “We are very pleased about this new order, and we are looking forward to working with the customer operating the steel plant and our long-term partner BSIET. This is the second pelletising plant contract we’ve received in China within six months, underlining the strong presence of our traveling grate technology on the Chinese market.”

Pellet production at the plant is estimated to start by mid 2022.

Metso Outotec says its traveling grate technology produces uniform pellets and ensures high performance and quality with low investment and operating costs, as well as low energy consumption and emissions.

Samarco iron ore pellet operations restart five years after Fundão tailings dam spill

BHP and Vale have confirmed their joint venture Samarco iron ore business has restarted operations in Brazil, more than five years after the failure of the Fundão dam led to its suspension.

Samarco’s gradual restart of operations incorporates concentrator 3 at the Germano complex in Minas Gerais and pelletising plant 4 at Ubu in Espírito Santo, as well as a new system of tailings disposal combining a confined pit and tailings filtering system for dry stacking, BHP said.

With the new filtration process, Samarco expects to be able to substantially dewater sand tailings, which represent 80% of total tailings by volume, and safely stack these filtered sand tailings in piles, Vale said. The remaining 20% of tailings are planned to be deposited in the Alegria Sul pit, a bedrock self-contained structure. Additionally, Samarco is progressing in the decommissioning of the Germano tailings dam to improve safety standards.

“Independent tests have been carried out on Samarco’s preparations for a safe restart of operations,” BHP added.

Samarco expects initially to produce around 7-8 Mt/y of iron ore pellets from the use of one of three concentrators to beneficiate iron ore from the Germano complex and one of four pellet plants in the Ubu complex, representing 26% of Samarco’s productive capacity.

Vale explained: “The integrated restart of operations occurs after an extensive commissioning test, ensuring a safe resumption after five years.”

Following the Corrective Operation Licence received in October 2019, Samarco expects to be able to restart a second concentrator in around five years to reach a range of production of some 14-16 Mt/y. The restart of the third concentrator could happen in around nine years, Vale said, when Samarco expects to reach a production volume of around 22-24 Mt/y.

The extensive work undertaken by the Renova Foundation, a collaboration between Vale, BHP Billiton Brasil Ltda and Samarco, to remediate and compensate for the damages of the failure of the Fundão dam in November 2015 continues, BHP said. The foundation is responsible for carrying out programs to repair the social and environmental impacts.

By November 2020, Renova had spent approximately $2.1 billion on its remediation and compensation programs. By November 2020, around $620 million had been paid in indemnities and emergency financial aid to approximately 325,000 people.

North sets Ferrexpo on a course for ‘carbon neutrality’

Ferrexpo is used to setting trends. It was the first company to launch a new open-pit iron ore mine in the CIS since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 and has recently become the first miner in Ukraine to adopt autonomous open-pit drilling and haulage technology.

It plans to keep up this innovative streak if a conversation with Acting CEO Jim North is anything to go by.

North, former Chief Operating Officer of London Mining and Ferrexpo, has seen the technology shift in mining first-hand. A holder of a variety of senior operational management roles in multiple commodities with Rio Tinto and BHP, he witnessed the take-off of autonomous haulage systems (AHS) in the Pilbara, as well as the productivity and operating cost benefits that came with removing operators from blasthole drills.

He says the rationale for adopting autonomous technology at Ferrexpo’s Yeristovo mine is slightly different to the traditional Pilbara investment case.

“This move was not based on reduction in salaries; it was all based on utilisation of capital,” North told IM. While miners receive comparatively good salaries in Ukraine, they cannot compete with the wages of those Pilbara haul truck drivers.

Ferrexpo Acting CEO, Jim North

North provided a bit of background here: “The focus for the last six years since I came into the company was about driving mining efficiencies and getting benchmark performance out of our mining fleet. This is not rocket science; it is all about carrying out good planning and executing to that plan.”

The company used the same philosophy in its process plant – a philosophy that is likely to see it produce close to 12 Mt of high grade (65% Fe) iron ore pellets and concentrate next year.

Using his industry knowledge, North pitted Ferrexpo’s fleet performance against others on the global stage.

“Mining is a highly capital-intensive business and that equipment you buy has got be moving – either loaded or empty – throughout the day,” North said. “24 hours-a-day operation is impossible as you must put fuel in vehicles and you need to change operators, so, in the beginning, we focused on increasing the utilised hours. After a couple of years, I noticed we were getting very close to the benchmark performance globally set by the majors.

“If you are looking at pushing your utilisation further, it inevitably leads you to automation.”

Ferrexpo was up for pushing it further and, four years ago, started the process of going autonomous, with its Yeristovo iron ore mine, opened in 2011, the first candidate for an operational shakeup.

“Yeristovo is a far simpler configuration from a mining point of view,” North explained. “It is basically just a large box cut. Poltava, on the other hand (its other iron ore producing mine currently), has been around for 50 years; it is a very deep and complex operation.

“We thought the place to dip our toe into the water and get good at autonomy was Yeristovo.”

This started off in 2017 with deployment of teleremote operation on its Epiroc Pit Viper 275 blasthole drill rigs. The company has gradually increased the level of autonomy, progressing to remotely operating these rigs from a central control room. In 2021-2022, these rigs will move to fully-autonomous mode, North says.

Ferrexpo has also been leveraging remotely-operated technology for mine site surveying, employing drones to speed up and improve the accuracy of the process. The miner has invested in three of these drones to carry out not only site surveys, but stockpile mapping and – perhaps next year – engineering inspections.

“The productivity benefits from these drones are huge,” North said. “In just two days of drone operation, you can carry out the same amount of work it would take three or four surveyors to do in one or two weeks!”

OEM-agnostic solution

It is the haul truck segment of the mine automation project at Yeristovo that has caught the most industry attention, with Ferrexpo one of the first to choose an OEM-agnostic solution from a company outside of the big four open-pit mining haul truck manufacturers.

The company settled on a solution from ASI Mining, owned 34% by Epiroc, after the completion of a trial of the Mobius® Haulage A.I. system on a Cat 793D last year.

The first phase of the commercial project is already kicking off, with the first of six Cat 793s converted to autonomous mode now up and running at Yeristovo. On completion of this first phase of six trucks, consideration will be given to timing of further deployment for the remainder of the Yeristovo truck fleet.

This trial and rollout may appear fairly routine, but behind the scenes was an 18-month process to settle on ASI’s solution.

“For us, as a business, we have about 86 trucks deployed on site,” North said. “We simply couldn’t take the same route BHP or Rio took three or four years ago in acquiring an entirely new autonomous fleet. At that point, Cat and Komatsu were the only major OEMs offering these solutions and they were offering limited numbers of trucks models with no fleet integration possibilities.

“If you had a mixed fleet – which we do – then you were looking at a multi-hundred-million-dollar decision to change out your mining fleet. That is prohibitive for a business like ours.”

Ferrexpo personnel visited ASI Mining’s facility in Utah, USA, several times, hearing all about the parent company’s work with NASA on robotics. “We knew they had the technical capability to work in tough environments,” North remarked.

“We also saw work they had been doing with Ford and Toyota for a number of years on their unmanned vehicles, and we witnessed the object detect and collision avoidance solutions in action on a test track.”

Convinced by these demonstrations and with an eye to the future of its operations, Ferrexpo committed to an OEM-agnostic autonomous future.

“If we want to get to a fully autonomous fleet at some stage in the future, we will need to pick a provider that could turn any unit into an autonomous vehicle,” North said. It found that in ASI Mining’s Mobius platform.

Such due diligence is representative not only of the team’s thorough approach to this project, it also reflects the realities of deploying such a solution in Ukraine.

“It is all about building capability,” North said. “This is new technology in Ukraine – it’s not like you can go down the road and find somebody that has worked on this type of technology before. As a result, it’s all about training and building up the capacity in our workforce.”

After this expertise has been established, the automation rollout will inevitably accelerate.

“Once we have Yeristovo fully autonomous, we intend to move the autonomy program to Belanovo, which we started excavating a couple of years ago,” North said. “The last pit we would automate would be Poltava, purely due to complexity.”

Belanovo, which has a JORC Mineral Resource of 1,700 Mt, is currently mining overburden with 30-40 t ADTs shifting this material. While ASI Mining said it would be able to automate such machines, North decided the automation program will only begin when large fleet is deployed.

“When we deploy large fleet at Belanovo and start to move significant volumes, we intend for it to become a fully-autonomous operation,” he said.

Poltava, which is a single pit covering a 7 km long by 2 km wide area (pictured below), has a five-decade-long history and a more diverse mining fleet than Yeristovo. In this respect, it was always going to be harder to automate from a loading and haulage point of view.

“If you think about the fleet numbers deployed when Belanovo is running, we will probably have 50% of our fleet running autonomously,” North said. “The level of capability to run that level of technology would be high, so it makes sense to take on the more complex operation at Poltava at that point in time.”

Consolidation and decarbonisation

This autonomy transition has also given North and his team the chance to re-evaluate its fleet needs for now and in the future.

This is not as simple as it may sound to those thinking of a typical Pilbara AHS fleet deployment, with the Yeristovo and Poltava mines containing different ore types that require blending at the processing plant in order to sustain a cost-effective operation able to produce circa-12 Mt/y of high-grade (65%-plus Fe) iron ore pellets and concentrate.

“That limits our ability in terms of fleet size for ore mining because we want to match the capacity of the fleet to the different ore streams we feed into the plant,” North said.

This has seen the company standardise on circa-220 t trucks for ore movement and 300-320 t trucks for waste haulage.

On the latter, North explained: “That is about shovel utilisation, not necessarily about trucks. If you go much larger than that 320-t truck, you are talking about the need to use large rope shovels and we don’t have enough consistent stripping requirements for that. We think the 800 t-class electric hydraulic excavator is a suitable match for the circa-320 t truck.”

This standardisation process at Poltava has seen BELAZ 40 t trucks previously working in the pit re-assigned for auxiliary work, with the smallest in-pit Cat 777 trucks acting as fuel, water and lubrication service vehicles at Poltava.

“The Cat 785s are the smallest operating primary fleet we have at Poltava,” North said. “We also have the Hitachi EH3500s and Cat 789s and Cat 793s, tending to keep the bigger fleet towards Yeristovo and the smaller fleet at Poltava.”

In carrying out this evaluation, the company has also plotted its next electrification steps.

“Given we have got to the point where we know we want 220 t for ore and 300-320 t nominally for waste at Yeristovo, we have a very clear understanding of where we are going in our efforts to support our climate action,” North said.

Electrification of the company’s entire operation – both the power generation and pelletising segment, and the mobile fleet – forms a significant part of its carbon reduction plans.

A 5 MW solar farm is being built to trial the efficacy of photovoltaic generation in the region, while, in the pelletiser, the company is blending sunflower husks with natural gas to power the process. Fine tuning over the past few years has seen the company settle on a 30:70 sunflower husk:natural gas energy ratio, allowing the company to make the most of a waste product in plentiful supply in Ukraine.

On top of this, the company is recuperating heat from the pelletisation process where possible and reusing it for other processes.

With a significant amount of ‘blue’ (nuclear) or ‘green’ (renewable) power available through the grid and plans to incorporate renewables on site, Ferrexpo looks to have the input part of the decarbonisation equation covered.

In the pellet lines, North says green hydrogen is believed to be the partial or full displacement solution for gas firing, with the company keenly watching developments such as the HYBRIT project in Sweden.

On the diesel side of things, Ferrexpo is also charting its decarbonisation course. This will start with a move to electric drive haul trucks in the next few years.

Power infrastructure is already available in the pits energising most of its electric-hydraulic shovels and backhoes, and the intention is for these new electric drive trucks to go on trolley line infrastructure to eradicate some of the operation’s diesel use.

“Initially we would still need to rely on diesel engines at the end of ramps and the bottom of pits, but our intention is to utilise some alternative powerpack on these trucks as the technology becomes available,” North said.

He expects that alternative powerpack to be battery-based, but he and the company are keeping their options open during conversations with OEMs about the fleet replacement plans.

“We know we are going to have to buy a fleet in the next couple of years, but the problem is when you make that sort of purchase, you are committing to using those machines for the next 20 years,” North said. “During all our conversations with OEMs we are recognising that we will need to buy a fleet before they have probably finalised their ‘decarbonised’ solutions, so all the contracts are based on the OEM providing that fully carbon-free solution when it becomes available.”

With around 15% of the company’s carbon footprint tied to diesel use, this could have a big impact on Ferrexpo’s ‘green’ credentials, yet the transition to trolley assist makes sense even without this sustainability benefit.

“The advantages in terms of mining productivity are huge,” North said. “You go from 15 km/h on ramp to just under 30 km/h on ramp.”

This is not all North offered up on the company’s carbon reduction plans.

At both of Ferrexpo’s operations, the company moves a lot of ore internally with shuttle trains, some of which are powered by diesel engines. A more environmentally friendly alternative is being sought for these locomotives.

“We are working with rail consultants that are delivering solutions for others to ‘fast follow’ that sector,” North said referencing the project already underway with Vale at its operations in Brazil. “We are investigating at the moment how we could design and deploy the solution at our operations for a lithium-ion battery loco.”

Not all the company’s decarbonisation and energy-efficiency initiatives started as recently as the last few years.

When examining a plan to reach 12 Mt/y of iron ore pellet production, North and his team looked at the whole ‘mine to mill’ approach.

“The cheapest place to optimise your comminution of rock is within the mine itself,” North said. “If you can optimise your blasting and get better fragmentation in the pit, you are saving energy, wear on materials, etc and you are doing some of the job of the concentrator and comminution process in the mine.”

A transition to a full emulsion blasting product came out of this study, and a move from NONEL detonators to electronic detonators could follow in the forthcoming years.

“That also led us into thinking about the future crusher – where we want to put it, what materials to feed into the expanded plant in the future, and what blending ratio we want to have from the pits,” North said. “The problem with pit development in a business that is moving 150-200 Mt of material a year is the crusher location needs to change as the mining horizons change.”

It ended up becoming a tradeoff between placing a new crusher in the pit on an assigned bench or putting it on top of the bench and hauling ore to that location.

The favoured location looks like being within the pit, according to North.

“It will be a substantial distance away from where our existing facility at Poltava is and we will convey the material into the plant,” he said. “We did the tradeoff study between hauling with trains/trucks, or conveying and, particularly for Belanovo, we need to take that ore to the crusher from the train network we already have in place.”

These internal ‘green’ initiatives are representative of the products Ferrexpo is supplying the steel industry.

Having shifted away from lower grade pellets to a higher-grade product in the past five years and started to introduce direct reduced iron pellet products to the market with trial shipments, Ferrexpo is looking to be a major player in the ‘green steel’ value chain.

North says as much.

“We are getting very close to understanding our path forward and our journey to carbon neutrality.”

HYBRIT fossil-free steelmaking project moves forward with biofuel plant build

A joint initiative between LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall to develop the world’s first fossil-free steelmaking process is gaining momentum, with construction of a biofuel-based pelletising plant shortly beginning at the iron ore miner’s Malmberget site, in Sweden.

This “world-unique test facility”, a key component of the HYBRIT initiative, will see fossil fuels replaced with biofuel to achieve fossil-free production of iron ore pellets.

The aim of HYBRIT, which is supported by the Swedish Energy Agency, is to develop a process for fossil-free steelmaking by 2035.

In 2018, the Swedish Energy Agency announced it would contribute funding amounting to more than SEK500 million ($54 million) towards the pilot-scale development of an industrial process, with three owners, LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall, each contributing a third of the outstanding capital for the project.

LKAB said: “Fossil-free steel production starts at the mine and LKAB is working hard to determine the design of the next generation of pelletising plants.”

Back in October, Tenova HYL was contracted by HYBRIT to supply its direct reduced iron solution as part of the project.

The biofuel-based plant, to be built near to LKAB’s Malmberget iron ore mine, will cost in the region of SEK80 million.

“Testing a bio-oil system is part of the pilot phase and the objective is to convert one of LKAB’s pelletising plants from fossil fuel to 100% renewable fuel,” the company said. “This means that fossil-generated carbon dioxide emissions from the Malmberget operation will be reduced by up to 40% during the test period, which corresponds to about 60,000 t/y. Eventually, LKAB hopes to achieve totally carbon-dioxide-free pellet production.”

Jan Moström, LKAB’s President and CEO, said: “Within HYBRIT, LKAB is examining options for replacing the heating technologies used in the pellet process, which are the heart of our processing plants. In parallel, trials will be conducted in an experimental facility in Luleå using an alternative heating technology. Trials will determine whether new biofuels and plasma burners will work in the unique setting of a pellet plant. Ultimately, this will make LKAB’s iron ore pellets completely carbon-dioxide-free.”

The global iron and steel industry is one of the industrial sectors whose processes emit the most carbon dioxide, according to LKAB. “A growing population, in combination with greater urbanisation, means that demand for steel will continue to grow until 2050. If the HYBRIT initiative succeeds, Sweden’s carbon dioxide emissions will decrease by 10%,” the company said.

Mårten Görnerup, CEO, Hybrit Development AB, said: “The initiative is decisive for Sweden’s ability to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement and nationally, and it is our contribution to battling climate change. Fossil-free production of iron ore pellets is an important step towards reaching these goals.”

Following a pre-study conducted in 2016–2017, the first sod was turned in 2018 for a pilot plant for hydrogen-based reduction of iron ore in Luleå, Sweden. This plant, expected to be completed in 2020, will be used to test processes downstream from the pelletising plant. The investment in a pilot-plant for bio-oil in Malmberget, which is an important milestone for HYBRIT and the development of fossil-free pellet production, is expected to be completed by 2020. The first tests will be conducted up to 2021.

Magnus Hall, President and CEO, Vattenfall, said: “Our partnership with SSAB and LKAB is playing a very important role in the electrification of the industry and the development of fossil-free hydrogen to enable a fossil-free life within a generation.”

Martin Lindqvist, CEO and President of SSAB, said the partners are on their way to a revolutionary technical advancement, “showing the world that it is possible to produce steel without producing carbon dioxide emissions”.

He added: “Work is proceeding according to schedule and I am confident that we will succeed. As a first step toward creating a fossil-free SSAB, we have decided to switch to an electric arc furnace in Oxelösund. This will entail decommissioning both blast furnaces in around 2025 and will reduce our CO2 emissions in Sweden by around 25%,” he said.

The primary goal of HYBRIT is to eliminate fossil-generated carbon dioxide emissions and thereby stop the net increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This will be done by converting to renewable fuel.

In the next step, LKAB’s vision is to fully eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the pelletising plants. LKAB’s iron ore consists largely of magnetite and, even without the use of bio-oil, it already gives the company a big environmental head-start on competitors, according to the company.

Steel produced from 100% LKAB iron ore pellets results in carbon dioxide emissions that are 14% lower when compared to steel manufactured at an average European sinter-based steel mill. “One explanation is that it requires less energy to make pellets from magnetite than from the more commonly occurring hematite. The pellet process currently requires a lot of energy, while a very great amount of heat is released when magnetite is converted to hematite.”

Vale looks to decommission upstream tailings dams following Brumadinho breach

Vale says it has presented to the Brazilian authorities a plan to decommission all its dams built by the upstream method.

The plan aims to “de-characterise” these structures as tailings dams in order to reintegrate them into the environment, the miner said.

The move by the miner comes less than a week after reporting a breach to the tailings dam at the Feijão mine in Brumadinho, Brazil, which saw water dispersed more than 63 km from the point of breach. As at 18:00 (Brazil time) on January 27, Vale said 361 displaced people had been found, 305 people were missing and 16 fatalities were confirmed by the Instituto Médico Legal.

Vale currently has 10 dams built by the upstream method, all of which are currently inactive. All of Vale’s dams present stability reports issued by external, independent and internationally respected companies, the company said.

The miner estimates investments of around BRL5 billion ($1.3 billion) will be necessary to decommission its upstream dams and the decommissioning process will occur over the next three years.

In order to carry out the decommissioning of the upstream dams safely and quickly, Vale will temporarily halt the production of the units where the structures are located, namely: Abóboras, Vargem Grande, Capitão do Mato and Tamanduá operations, in the Vargem Grande complex; and the Jangada, Fábrica, Segredo, João Pereira and Alto Bandeira operations, in the Paraopeba complex, also including the stoppage of the Fábrica and Vargem Grande pelletising plants.

“The operation of the halted units will be resumed as the decommissioning works are completed,” it said.

The estimated impact of the production stoppage is about 40 Mt/y of iron ore. Included in this figure is the pellet feed needed for the production of 11 Mt of pellets, an impact that will be offset by the increase in production of other systems of the company, Vale said.

Vale’s 2018 iron ore production is expected to come in at 390-400 Mt, alongside 55 Mt of iron ore pellets.

The miner added that it expected to reallocate all its collaborators currently located in the operations that will be halted.

Photo caption: Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman flies over the Brumadinho site

Metso cements Tata Steel relationship with iron ore pellet plant order

Metso has won a “significant order” to deliver a large-scale iron ore pellet plant and related engineering services to Tata Steel for the expansion of the Kalinganagar operation (pictured), in Odisha state, India.

The order was booked in Metso’s December quarter orders received, the mining OEM said.

The new pellet plant will be equipped with capability to use a dual fuel burner and a burner management system to enable the use of iron ore feed from different sources. This will optimise the overall cost of production, including the fuel type and consumption, according to Metso.

Victor Tapia, President, Metso’s Mining Equipment business area, said: “Metso and Tata Steel have a history of more than 25 years of successful cooperation. We take this much-valued partnership and the confidence in our knowhow as clear indicators that we have been able to meet their business needs in a fast-changing business environment. In line with our value proposition, we will assist Tata Steel in minimising fuel consumption and reducing their carbon footprint in pellet production.”

Tata is among the largest steel-producing companies globally, with manufacturing operations in 26 countries and crude deliveries of about 28 Mt in 2017. Operational since 2015, the Kalinganagar plant is one of Tata Steel’s key manufacturing locations in India, Metso says.

Kamal Pahuja, SVP Indian market area at Metso, said: “Working together with Tata Steel over the years, we have developed a strong understanding of their business and of what adds value to their operation; this understanding helps us to deliver the required performance. On that account, we were able to design a pelletising solution that enables the lowest cost per tonne of pellet produced while providing flexibility for varying qualities of feed to optimise the production quality and rate.”

Metso says it is the leading player in pelletising in India. This order is the company’s first iron ore pellet plant solution for Tata Steel.

Last year, Metso reported its largest-ever pellet plant delivery to JSW Steel.

Vale gets hands on iron ore beneficiation technology with New Steel purchase

Vale has entered into an agreement with Hankoe FIP to buy innovative iron ore beneficiation technology provider, New Steel, for $500 million.

New Steel currently owns patents of dry processing concentration (fines dry magnetic separation) in 56 countries, which is expected to support Vale’s development of high-grade pellet feed initiatives.

Vale said the transaction was expected to close in 2019, subject to certain conditions precedent, including approval by antitrust authorities in Brazil.

One project that is expected to benefit from this acquisition is Vale’s 20 Mt/y Southeastern System pellet feed project, the company said.

Metso and Ferrexpo Poltava Mining’s iron ore pellet evolution

Ferrexpo’s Poltava Mining subsidiary has been on a journey to both stimulate demand for iron ore pellets and increase the Fe content of its product. The crushing and flotation technology of Metso has played a key role in this evolution, according to Alexey Strikha*.

In 1960, the exploration of Kremenchug magnetic anomaly started on the left bank of the Dnieper River, Ukraine. At that time, the foundation of the future Poltava Mining refinery was laid, and, 10 years later, the plant produced its first batch of concentrate.

There were several phases of plant construction: in 1980, after launching the pelletising plant, the company presented a new type of product to the market – iron ore pellets. To stimulate the demand for this product, the company needed to improve the product’s quality, ie increase the iron content in the concentrate.

Keeping this in mind, the company’s managers decided to upgrade the ore pre-treatment operations: reduce the fragmentation size to cut the costs of further ore degradation. Due to space constraints at the crushing plant, the company was in need of new equipment with the exact dimensions of the current foundation structures. At that time, Svedala (acquired by Metso in 2001) engineers suggested testing the Barmac vertical shaft impact crusher.

“The conventional crusher-based closed cycle of check screening was not an option for us, so we were offered inertial crushers for coarse lumps. And this proved to be a good technical solution,” said Vladimir Khovanets, Chief Concentrating Engineer at Poltava Mining.

Alexander Lysenko, Poltava Mining’s Chief Technical Officer said: “Metso always does lots of research and testing to offer us an integrated solution, i.e. technology that gives us exactly what we want.”

After the pilot testing, the middle and small fraction crusher lines were upgraded with Barmac crushers. That project was a success, so both companies decided to expand further joint activities: two double-drum separators were installed instead of eight locally manufactured triple-drum separators with no loss in productivity.

Flotation technology

These earlier projects to upgrade the crushing and magnetic concentration processes laid the foundation for further improvement in the concentrate quality.

Lysenko said: “It’s common knowledge that our ore is quite lean, and the market was in demand of high-quality iron ore pellets containing 62-65% Fe.”

Two methods are used for concentration of lean ores: magnetic and flotation concentration. During the engineering study of these methods, Metso installed a pilot plant with laboratory mills, flotation cells, magnetic separators and hydrocyclones.

Igor Grebeniuk, Regional Sales Manager at Metso, said: “The pilot results proved that 67-68% Fe content in the pellets manufactured from Poltava Mining ores was quite possible after the flotation upgrading.”

In 2002, the company launched Flotation Plant 1 equipped with Metso RCS130. It was the first project in the former Soviet Union to use flotation upgrading in the ferrous industry. Keeping this in mind, the engineers at Poltava Mining ran a detailed preliminary analysis of the new technology, studying the cases of Metso equipment supplied to the concentration plants in the USA and Canada.

Lysenko said: “Metso explained all the benefits and the hidden risks. And we saw that the technology works. It’s friendly to the environment and commercially feasible.”

Reducing grain size

Commissioning of the new flotation plant entailed the modification of the crushing lines, since super-fine grain is required for efficient magnetic upgrading of concentrate.

Khovanets recalled: “While working with Flotation Plant 1, we gained the insight that Flotation Plants 2 and 3 need to be constructed for the strategic development of the company. And conventional drum mills were not so good for that process.”

Lysenko said: “Thanks to flotation, we were able to increase the yield of iron from quite lean ores, but we couldn’t get enough homogeneous product using the conventional crushing line.”

Metso engineers suggested Vertimill for high-quality and fine milling of the product. In coordination with Ferrexpo engineers, a concentration line with vertical mills for all flotation cells was developed.

Khovanets said: “After magnetic concentration, we get about 85-89% of below 44 microns grade. Vertimill machines help to bring up the fineness of grinding, ie up to 90% of ground materials are minus 33 microns.

“Vertimill machines offer a new design. A conventional drum mill operates in the horizontal position, while Vertimill is installed vertically. The space needed of such equipment is much smaller, and it provides proper crushing grade.”

Boosting pellet iron content

Two additional flotation cells were commissioned in 2014. These additional cells gave a step change in the concentration technology. Today, ore from different fields is processed separately at Flotation Plants 1 and 2, while Flotation Plant 3 is used for iron recovery from froth.

Lysenko said: “Before commissioning the plant, we produced pellets with 62% Fe content. Due to flotation upgrading we now have 67% concentrate, and this brings the product’s quality to a new level. I mean pellets with 65% Fe content.”

Introduction of the new iron ore concentration technologies entails upgrading the next downstream process, namely filtration. After the equipment upgrade, it will be possible to reach the maximum dehumidification of concentrate to gain additional quality.

Grebeniuk said about the current projects: “But we go the extra mile. To increase production, we’re now constructing two additional plants, a crushing plant and filtration plant.”

A tough market requires high-grade product rich in iron and with minimum impurities. After the process upgrade, Poltava Mining was able to improve the pellet quality, which also means more investments in the infrastructure of its hometown.

Ruslan Klimenko, Chief Communication Officer of Poltava Mining, said: “We want to offer benefits to as many people in the city as possible.”

*This story was written by Alexey Strikha, one of Metso’s Regional Directors

Zanaga Iron Ore’s cold pelletising plan progresses

Zanaga Iron Ore’s plans to start up a low-cost pellet project in the Republic of Congo using a polymer-based product have been given a boost after recent test work returned positive results.

Independent laboratories, testing out the commercial acceptability of two 20 kg samples of Zanaga “cold pellets”, said they were within the industry acceptable limits for conventional pellets.

This latest test work is part of the company’s Early Production project (EPP) at Zanaga. The EPP would be a relatively low capital cost development using road and potentially rail transportation solutions as well as existing port infrastructure to ship product out.

It would entail the development of a industry acceptable iron ore pellet product using a lower cost cold pelletisation process. It could also act as a pre-cursor for the company’s original 12 Mt/y stage one iron ore production plan.

The perceived potential benefits of Cold Pelletisation, as advocated by the technology providers, are low capital cost, low incremental operating costs and low environmental footprint, according to Zanaga.

Results from previous test work indicated a simple gravity based processing of the friable-enriched, hematite-dominated, near-surface Zanaga iron ore can produce a pellet feed concentrate grading 67.4% iron, combined silica plus alumina of 5.9%, and 0.03% phosphorus.

Zanaga then sent two 20 kg samples of Zanaga cold pellets from this work to a European steel mill and an accredited European laboratory servicing the steel industry, with positive results coming back.

While the extent to which the proposed benefits of cold pelletisation are achievable is still to be tested and established, Zanaga is now discussing the next steps and tests with steel mills to “assess potential demand and pricing for Zanaga pellets and pellet feed concentrate”.

All of these developments come when high-grade iron ore pellets are in demand as China’s environmental crackdown continues.

The 12 Mt/y stage one Zanaga project, which is effectively majority owned by Glencore (50%, plus one share), is expected to cost $1.8-$2.04 billion to build.