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IDC to fund new iron ore process

Staff Reporter

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) will invest R100-million in a process to convert superfine iron ore into high quality iron units. The IDC said Iron Mineral Beneficiation Services -- the company that has developed the technology called Finesmelt -- would receive approximately R100-million from the IDC.

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) will invest R100-million in a process to convert superfine iron ore into high quality iron units, the corporation told the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Tuesday.

In a statement following the announcement, the IDC said Iron Mineral Beneficiation Services (IMBS)—the company that has developed the technology called Finesmelt—would receive approximately R100-million from the IDC, the state-owned development finance institution.

“This funding will be applied to the Nigel launch project in Nigel which aims to produce 48 000 tonnes of Hot Briquetted Iron [HBI] and 24 000 tonnes of ferrochrome per annum, commencing January 2009,” the corporation said.

The IMBS will hold 67% of the equity and the IDC 33%.

A larger scale production plant with initial capacity to produce a minimum of 500 000 tonnes of iron units per year would also be commissioned in conjunction with a large iron ore producer.

This would receive further implementation funding from the IDC in terms of an equity sharing agreement.

“The uniqueness of the Finesmelt process, which took four years to develop, is that it produces high quality iron units utilising low grade superfine iron ore and non-coking coal, without any form of agglomeration in an environmentally friendly manner,” said IMBS business development director Fidel Jonah.

“With the growth of electric arc furnaces (EAF) and the current high price of scrap, supply of alternative iron units is critical if we are to grow a competitive steel industry in South Africa,” said IMBS chief executive John Beachy Head.

He said the Finesmelt process—with its ability to deliver iron units at 33% below average costs—intended to become the largest producer of high quality feed stock to the local steel industry.

Abel Malinga, the head of the mining and beneficiation strategic business unit at the IDC, said the corporation’s decision to be project partner was in keeping with their mission to support the department of trade and industry’s National Industrial Policy Framework (NIPF).

According to the NIPF, the department aims to finalise the feasibility study into the viability of establishing a new carbon steel plant by March 2008, he said.

He said a steel task team had been working over the last six months to assess the viability of different locations and technologies for the establishment of a new carbon-steel plant in South Africa.

Malinga said the development of the unique Finesmelt beneficiation technology was attractive as it fitted perfectly within the IDC’s mandate to promote innovation in the South African industry as well as entrepreneurial development.

“The IDC is also happy that apart from promoting black economic empowerment, the IMBS projects will create more than 2 000 jobs in the implementation of these projects,” he said.

IMBS chairperson Sam Johan said: “South Africa, with its abundance of iron ore, the availability of cheap coal and world class infrastructure, lends itself perfectly to the Finesmelt process. - Sapa

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