by Keith Vining
Changes in the iron ore industry have been a huge point of discussion over the last year. We’ve seen a lot of talk about high-grade and low-grade markets, customer demand shifts and changing discounts and prices.
At the same time, increasingly goethitic ores are affecting the value chain from feasibility through to handling, process planning, mining, agglomeration and iron-making. In addition, environmental pressures and increased steel production margins are shifting the focus firmly to ore quality.
What hasn’t changed is that iron ore grades, impurities and changing customer requirements are making processing and planning increasingly challenging.
With these industry challenges looking set to continue, the questions have to be asked:
Which future do you want? Which have you designed for? And which are you prepared for?
Furthermore, are you aware of (and using) the power of textural analysis? It’s the capability that will give you the greatest level of insight into your ore and ore potential, wherever you are on the value chain.
And do you have access to the expertise and support to help navigate product, process and market uncertainties and to help develop, evaluate and test new ideas and options at lab and pilot scale?
Whatever your answers to these questions, two things are clear:
In response to these questions and concerns, the importance of adopting a practice of textural analysis and not simply relying on chemistry has become clear.
As we’ve discussed, evaluating ore quality by grade — while still the industry benchmark — doesn’t provide the full picture. Textural classification offers deeper insights and understanding of ore characteristics to improve processing, beneficiation and product differentiation by attributes, which go beyond grade.
If you’re relying on chemistry-determined classification and ignoring texture, you risk missing out on:
All these opportunities need to be considered if you are to meet the demands of rising ore and industry complexity, and prepare for the future.
Given the impact of increasing ore complexity on operations, it’s clear that early intervention is more advantageous than changing your operations further down the line.
No matter what stage you’re at, there are multiple points of intervention and options for textural classification along the entire value chain – regardless of whether you’re at an early stage or not.
Textural classification provides insight and a continuous thread through the value chain; from product, market and processing options, through to improved mining and processing operations, to understanding ore attributes during marketing and handling changing ores at the blast furnace stage (see Figure 1 below).
The application of textural understanding and classification can assist your operations by:
As you can see from Figure 1 below, there are multiple points along the value chain where textural understanding (and the tools that provide it) could inform early intervention or product and process alternative consideration and development.
There are many opportunities along the value chain to take advantage of textural classification to test the status quo, consider the impact of different possible futures and help optimise your planning, processing or performance.
In order to achieve this, there are 4 key factors that are essential to the successful adoption of textural classification no matter where your responsibilities lie in the value chain:
We’ve established the benefits of textural analysis, but what sort of facilities, capabilities or labs can support its implementation?
At CSIRO, we offer a comprehensive, cutting-edge range of evaluation techniques based on the latest research — all in the one place.
We have a range of laboratories and pilot-scale test facilities, meaning that we can assist with everything from analytical input, to helping design the most effective testing campaign, to undertaking testing at lab-scale and pilot-scale.
Overall, we’re not just a teaspoons and test tubes operation. We do have that capability, but we’re primarily a forklifts-and-overalls, fieldwork operation. We have the ability to complete feasibility testing through to pilot-scale sinter performance tests and we focus all our research around the day to day reality of your operations.
In short, we provide:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series about the world of iron ore as much as we’ve enjoyed speaking about rising ore complexity and what can be done to achieve cost-effective results.
You can also find out more about how the changing state of iron ore affects the value chain in our book. It’s written for industry professionals and companies in the field of iron ore extraction processing, iron-making and steel processing. It summarises topics including the characterisation of iron ores, beneficiation (separation and refining), agglomeration (e.g. production of pellets or powders), blast furnace technology for smelting and environmental issues. It’s a must-have if you’re interested in — and responsible for — iron ore extraction processing.
Please stay in touch with us and please feel free to contact me or the team.
If you want to know more about CSIRO’s capability to help you across the value chain, give me a call on +61 7 3327 4761 or email me directly on Keith.Vining@csiro.au.
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