Last month, the International Mining and Metal Series (IMM) opened the doors to the inaugural Iron Ore Beneficiation Africa conference at the Indaba Hotel and Conference Centre in Johannesburg. In light of the South African Government’s recent strategies to identify a number of policies, legislations and incentives to enable beneficiation, this has quickly become an important area of focus for the South African resource industry.
The two day gathering was perfectly timed to bring together Iron Ore industry representatives to discuss their views and experiences with beneficiation following the SA Government’s announcement. Perspectives were offered by producers, project owners, steel makers, government advisors and technology experts on the merits, opportunities and challenges of beneficiation for the industry.
Conference Chairman, Dave Cousins, the Industrial Development Corporation’s (IDC) Industry Champion for Mining & Beneficiation opened day one, firstly setting the scene on world steel markets and context for South African producers, before moving on to address the role of iron ore beneficiation for South Africa and the IDC’s involvement.
While South African steel producers are facing tough challenges, year on year cost escalations and handling increasingly aged facilities to name a few. Cousins advised that South Africa now has the opportunity to embrace current trends such as leveraging modern technology advancements and looking to alternative iron making technology.
Delegates later heard a fitting example of such ‘alternative iron making technology’ when John Beachy Head, CEO of Industrial Mineral Beneficiation Services (IMBS) presented on their IMBS’s technology that removes the constraints of traditional iron-making methods.
Construction on the company’s first 50,000mpt commercial modular unit Masorini Iron Beneficiation (MIB) commenced at Palabora Mining Ltd in October 2012 and was completed by July 2013, when commissioning commenced. IMBS are expected to literally ‘Make Metal at the Mine’ when full production begins mid this year.
Other topics addressed on day two included project finance and investment requirements for mineral beneficiation projects in Africa, presented by Robert Futter Director of Cresco Project Financing.
This was followed by a look at the technical issues with three papers that examined mineralogy and processing. Carl Bergmann and Heloise Thiele both of Mintek, delivered papers on ‘Modelling of fine iron ores processes’ and ‘high density heavy liquid separation’ and Jean Clement Boyeme Zogo of the University of Johannesburg spoke about the ‘beneficiation of hematite banded iron formations’.
During the two days a number of key Iron Ore explorers with prospects in Africa, gave project updates in the context of beneficiation for their projects:
- Ferrex Plc’s Dave Reeves spoke about Malelane Iron Ore Project and beneficiating mid-grade iron ore via simple crushing and gravity circuits, the company’s metallurgical test work findings and the process design for the project.
- James Allan, CEO of Sable Metals and Minerals Ltd asked the question “To beneficiate or not to beneficiate?” While Allan stated that “Beneficiation is a noble goal”, he questioned the attractiveness of this for project shareholders and financiers and called upon the Government to consider providing capital via a partnership model. Allan offered an example that he felt would ensure beneficiation also offers value for shareholders over DSO options.
- Ironveld’s CEO,Dr Peter Cox completed conference proceedings when he spoke about the businesses approach to ‘align’ with beneficiation and outlined plans for the Northern Limb Pig Iron project. A pilot plant planned for build in the near term based on the current power source available, with view for full scale smelters in the long term.
Over the course of the two days, it was clear that continuing challenges for infrastructure and limited energy provision for such projects is still a continuing quandary for all involved in South Africa’s road to increase Iron Ore beneficiation, and the value in the countries minerals.
The take home questions from the conference appeared to be ‘How can we work together to enable beneficiation?’ and ‘How do we ensure beneficiation creates more value for South Africa and all stakeholders involved?’
With so many industry stakeholders passionate to overcome some of the hurdles and the Government, producers, project owners and entrepreneurial technology providers all looking to work together and find creative solutions to move forward – we look forward watching out for news and developments.
The conference papers are now available for viewing on SlideShare.
You can continue the discussion at our upcoming 4th Annual Africa Iron Ore Conference, taking place on the 3rd and 4th June at Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel Sandton Johannesburg.