Reedy Lagoon is exploring the option of replacing coal with biomass as it looks to “HIsmelt” technology to downstream process its wheatbelt magnetite ore from Burracoppin. The innovative move, whilst no doubt appealing to the seemingly unstoppable green movement, may even work out to be more cost effective than processing coal to smelt the ore – and it could potentially spawn a new fast-growing tree industry in WA’s wheatbelt region.
Reedy has hit upon an innovative blend of green technologies that may allow the company to produce a lucrative, intermediate stage ‘pig iron’ product in WA through the use of biomass as a “reductant” in the process instead of coal, which is more typically used during the HIsmelt process.
The company is exploring the use of feedstock from its Burracoppin magnetite iron ore deposit near Perth, combined with HIsmelt technology that has tested well in Europe, to create a high-quality pig iron. Pig iron is an intermediate iron product that can be on sold at more than triple the price of iron ore and it is used to produce high-quality steel.
According to the company, the HIsmelt process offers a simpler alternative to conventional iron-making as it eliminates the use of sinter and pellet plants and coking ovens.
HIsmelt technology eliminates emissions of particulates and dioxins, plus it eliminates emissions of benzene and toluene. However it still uses coal as a carbon-based reductant in the iron-making process, but Reedy Lagoon is looking into a new way of processing the ore.
The company is keen to innovate the HIsmelt process further by replacing coal with locally sourced ‘biomass’ which could just be carbon rich locally grown wood. According to Reedy management preliminary testing in Europe shows that it may be possible to create a HIsmelt process using biomass as the feedstock and whilst the primary purpose of the change would be to save money, the additional “green” benefits are potentially significant according to the company.
The biomass could even be sourced from local forestry providers, generating a ‘carbon neutral’ solution.
The basic premise is that trees sequester carbon when they grow and whilst they will release that carbon during the HIsmelt process, the overall operation should be close to carbon neutral.
Creating pig iron would represent an additional business opportunity for Reedy who would then be both a magnetite miner and a downstream processor.
The possible use of biomass or wood as feedstock for a potential HIsmelt magnetite processor could even spawn a new fast-growing forestry industry in WA.
The iron ore feedstock for this plan will be Reedy’s 100 per cent owned Burracoppin project, located 250 km east of Perth. The massive deposit covers over 3 km of strike and has an exploration target of 140-200 million tonnes grading around 20-22 per cent iron.
Burracoppin lies just 2 km south of the Trans-Australian rail line which connects the deposit with both the port at Esperance to the southeast and the industrial complex at Kwinana to the west.
What sets Burracoppin apart is its amenability to conventional concentration, requiring only a coarse grind at between 100 and 150 microns to produce a high-grade, greater than 65 per cent iron concentrate. This unusual characteristic also makes the product ideal for use in the HIsmelt process and delivers considerable cost savings compared to many magnetite deposits that need to be ground down to 45 microns, or even less, which can sometimes make deposits uneconomic.
The Burracoppin high-grade concentrate is low in contaminants making the product highly attractive to steel makers, potentially garnering a healthy premium in the market – making it the ideal product for the production of clean pig iron.
Premium iron ore products are currently trading at around US$100 per tonne whilst pig iron is fetching an impressive US$300 per tonne – a considerable ‘value add’ to just traditional processing.
Reedy Lagoon has commissioned global iron ore experts Dinsdale Consultants in Perth to undertake a study on the potential feasibility of its innovative biomass fed HIsmelt process and it expects to deliver the results in about 7 weeks.
If Reedy can achieve a concentrate by grinding its product at over 100 microns and then go downstream using a cost-effective biomass in a HIsmelt process, it may end up with a considerable advantage when compared to traditional magnetite deposits.
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