Investor News

Indian iron ore fines pile up

The latest report from Mining Weekly on the state of India's iron ore fines stockpiles shows the scope of the opportunity for our HydroMOR (formerly Matmor) process in India.

India has abundant iron ore reserves. The problem? Its ore is softer compared to the hard, high-grade lump ore Australia is known for. This creates a significant amount of fines.

The traditional iron-making method, the blast furnace, needs hard lumps of iron ore, high in Fe concentration (>62%), and high-quality metallurgical grade coal.

And while iron ore fines can be processed into pellets or briquettes, the cost of doing so is often a negative-sum game depending on the prevailing price and availability of high-quality lump ore. Right now, there are no buyers. India's iron ore fines are stranded.

As it stands, there are an estimated 150 million tonnes of low-grade fines stockpiled around India. Translated, that's ~90 million tonnes of iron, more than 15 years of Australia's current steel industry output.

This is where HydroMOR comes in.

HydroMOR takes iron ore fines, combines them with lignite via the Coldry process, and then reduces the iron ore to metallic iron in a unique low-temperature furnace.

The advantages?

  1. Liberating the vast 'above-ground ore body'
  2. Decoupling iron making from coking coal

This vast 'above-ground ore body' represents a sunk cost for miners, as well as taking up swathes of land for storage. HydroMOR facilitates the cost-effective liberation of this typically stranded resource.

Adding to this raw material cost advantage is the use of low-cost, abundant lignite instead of high-priced coking coal.

India relies significantly on imports of coking coal to supply its traditional blast furnaces. When commercialised, HydroMOR will allow India to decouple a portion of its iron-making industry from the coking coal market, diversifying its raw material supply options.

How is HydroMOR different?

We believe HydroMOR may be the most significant innovation in iron smelting in 300 years.

Since the advent of coke-based smelting by Abraham Darby in 1709, primary iron making has relied on high-quality coking coal as its reductant and heat source.

The traditional ironmaking route is driven by a carbon-based reaction. At the right temperature, the carbon from the coal 'takes' oxygen from the iron oxide, leaving the metallic iron, which is subsequently melted, refined and cast.

Technological advancement has seen increases in scale, process control, automation and quality. But the fundamental chemistry hasn't changed.

HydroMOR utilises a fundamentally different chemical pathway; hydrogen.

This allows a lower temperature process that results in lower capital and operating costs and lower CO2 intensity.

We're poised to scale up the HydroMOR process.

Given India's growth ambitions over the coming decades, the need for nation-building iron and steel products and the vast 'above ground ore body' of fines, HydroMOR could conceivably play an increasing role in helping India achieve her ambitions.

Did we mention HydroMOR is also lower in CO2 intensity than the traditional blast furnace? This is also important in helping India achieve its Paris Climate Agreement commitments, helping balance growth and emissions intensity.


Indian iron-ore production at 7-year high, but unsold low-grade stocks pile up

8 May 2018 | Mining Weekly | Ajoy K Das

Indian iron-ore production has touched a seven-year high of 210-million tons during 2017/18, but the industry is facing a piquant situation of a mounting stockpile of unsold carryover low-grade iron-ore lumps and fines. Official state-wide production figures are yet to be compiled for the last financial year, but mining industry representative bodies have estimated that total iron-ore and fines production to be 210-million tons, outstripping the 200-million tons achieved in 2011, prior to the Supreme Court’s clampdown on illegal mining.

Source: Indian iron-ore production at 7-year high, but unsold low-grade stocks pile up