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Key Insights from the Iron Ore 2017 Conference

Posted by: Keirissa Lawson

August 30, 2017

Keith Viningby Keith Vining

The CSIRO Carbon Steel Futures (CSF) team has recently returned from Iron Ore 2017, a leading conference series jointly organised by CSIRO and AusIMM.

Over 400 national and international participants attended the conference and were able to benefit from the insights shared via the many keynote speakers, presentations, and workshops. The keynote speakers included senior representatives from Tata Steel, Fortescue Metals, Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation, Global Minerals Marketing, CRU, Roy Hill Holdings, METS Ignited Australia, and POSCO.

We’re aware not everyone had the opportunity to attend the conference, so to ensure you have access to the key insights from the event, the CSF team has prepared this blog unpacking the emerging trends we identified at Iron Ore 2017.

Insights from Iron Ore 2017

As you can imagine for an event running for three days, with workshops to follow, there is a breadth and depth to what we could recap. However, rather than superficially go over the many interesting things shared, we’ll focus on the reoccurring themes that appeared from the conference and establish an overview of what they mean for the industry.

Textural Ore Classification and Bulk Handling

An emerging trend which appeared across multiple talks was the increasing degree of  focus placed on handling productivity and efficiency.

For the industry, the need for improved prediction of bulk handling issues is becoming imperative, and we’ve only just kicked off investing in building the body of knowledge around minimising the effects of bulk handling issues via a comprehensive understanding of  textural ore classification. Ultimately, we believe an incorporation of a texture based ore classification into mine planning will enable potential handling problems to be anticpated and avoided.

Characterisation

Another trend common across multiple conference presentations revolved around goethite characterisation. In the past, these conversations and insights have tended to focus on ore characterisation from a geological perspective, however reduced exploration budgets have shifted emphasis from discovery of new deposits to bringing known resources into production to meet increased demand. The overarching shift in focus from geology to a strong characterisation/processing bias requires the application of new techniques and has driven the need for better characterisation of the different ore types being mined and processed.

When we evaluate the state of the Iron Ore industry, it’s unsurprising that this transition from geology to a product focus is occurring. Lower grade ore types are being increasingly exploited and, while grade is still largely controlled by blending, companies are finding blending options are becoming tighter. Discount margins are increasing due to supply catching up with demand so there is more incentive for producers to invest in advanced characterisation and beneficiation options as a trade-off against increasing margins between high and low grade products.

Technology and agglomerated products

Finally, the CSF team identified a greater focus at this year’s Iron Ore conference on leveraging high tech solutions and the use of combined and complementary techniques to support the characterisation of agglomerated products. This year multiple conference talks honed in on the insights that can be achieved by 3D imaging to develop a greater understanding of agglomerated products.

In our experience, this shift represents a transition to a more systematic approach to characterising agglomerated products with the objective to ultimately grow the industry’s understanding of how to process these materials to maximise outputs.

Iron industry implications and impact

Common threads at Iron Ore 2017 were understanding and managing material and bulk handling properties, improved characterisation, and analysis through new technology or by combining existing tools. But, what does this mean for the industry and your operation?

A lot of the impact these areas will have on your operation will depend on where you fit in the value chain. And, from what we saw at Iron Ore 2017, understanding the material you’re working with is going to become an organisation wide focus moving forward.

This focus on the material deviates from the traditional approach of product control by grade. While a grade driven approach is still valid, it’s not providing producers with enough information to drive outputs in the current iron ore market. The increasing need for production and mining flexibility to minimise costs and maximise productivity is behind the shift to a better understanding of ore properties..

One of the advantages for the industry is CSIRO’s exposure across the value chain. Allowing CSIRO to be uniquely positioned to support the development of a robust understanding of an organisation’s material, and how to optimise processes for that specific material, wherever it interacts in the value chain.

Understanding the material a producer works with is crucial and is something the CSF team explored only recently in our blog: The 7 Analytical tools you can use to improve mine performance which provides an overview of the tools available to better understand your material, and how they can impact the value chain.

Getting aligned with the industry

It was clear to the CSIRO CSF team that the Australian Iron Ore industry is focused more than ever on understanding the specific properties of the ore they’re working with, and where this knowledge can add value in their operation.

If your operation is looking to join the leading Iron Ore producers and better understand your ore and product/process characteristics’, then the CSF team at CSIRO is uniquely positioned to add value to your operation.

Because of the variability in ore and the value chain, at CSIRO our main objective is to deliver efficiencies and optimise your processes to produce superior mine outomes – whether this takes the form of ongoing analytical support, training, or a product.

If you would like to explore the potential benefits of improved ore characterisation and process understanding, feel free to give me, the Research Group Leader a call on +61 07 3327 4761 or email me directly on keith.vining@csiro.au. During this conversation, we’ll discuss your unique production/handling problem and walk through how you can drive more revenue from your operation.

Learning Opportunity

After Iron Ore 2017, the CSIRO Carbon Steel Futures team with colleagues from CSIRO’s Discovery Program also conducted a workshop, providing registrants with an overview basic ore types as well as advanced characterisation techniques, including hyperspectral, automated core logging, 3D (CT-scan), optical image analysis XRD, and SEM/EPMA mapping. The workshop focussed  on applications from ore to agglomerated products and the impact these can have on increasing productivity across the value chain.

We had a lot of enquiries to run a second workshop in our Brisbane facility and while we haven’t landed on a date, we’re accepting expressions of interest.

If you’re interested in developing a better understanding of your materials feel free to email me and we’ll mark you down as interested in a potential Brisbane workshop and keep you posted.

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