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The challenge

Processing lower quality ores

Iron ore is one of Australia's largest export commodities worth around $50-60 billion annually. According to 2017 figures, Australia produces more than 800 million tonnes of iron ore a year, mostly for use in steel production.

However, increased global competition threatens Australia's market share with potentially significant implications to the economy.

Research to improve iron ore sintering is helping to maintain one of Australia's major exports

In order to maintain such high levels of production, new and increasingly mineralogically complex ores are being exported. These complex iron ores present unique mine planning and processing challenges and can impact feasibility through to handling, process planning, mining, agglomeration and iron-making.

In this context, comprehensive material understanding is essential to optimise blending strategies to adjust processing variables and to maximise product performance.

Our response

Research to improve ore performance during sintering

We have undertaken both applied and fundamental research to evaluate the current challenges facing Australian iron ore producers, developing strategies to bring new products into the market.

This work has included:

  • in-depth investigation of alumina sources in iron ore fines and their potential impact, and mitigation technologies on sinter quality and production
  • investigation of the formation and reduction technologies of significant environmental pollutants, polychlorinated debenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, from sintering
  • fundamental investigation into the ore — water interactions are important phenomena during granulation
  • a systematic investigation of ore types on fundamental sintering characteristics.

We have also investigated the potential substitution of charcoal for coke breeze in sinter mixes, the increasing utilisation of magnetite concentrations in sinter mixtures, the production of iron-phosphorous alloys from high-phosphorous oolitic iron ores, and the effect of pre-wetting treatment on sintering performance.

The results

Maintaining Australia's market share

The ability to supply increasingly mineralogically complex ores that maintain sinter quality, enables Australia to maintain and grow its iron ore export market share.

Our research has led to more efficient process technologies in producing sinter and reducing carbon emissions.

Our research also helps to increase potential employment opportunities in related industries.

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