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Vale Technology to Reduce Use of Dams and Increase Safety of Operations

Mining News - Published on Mon, 10 Feb 2020

Image Source: Vale New Steel FDMS
Vale aims to invest up to USD100 million to build an industrial plant for dry magnetic concentration of low-grade iron ore. The Brazilian technology, known as FDMS (Fines Dry Magnetic Separation), is unique and has been developed by New Steel - a company acquired in late 2018. The capacity of the plant, which is expected to be installed in Minas Gerais, will be 1.5 million metric tons per year. The project is expected to start up by 2022. Vale estimates that, in 2024, 1% of all the company's production will use this technology, whose patent is already recognized in 59 countries.

With New Steel, Vale estimates that, in 2024, 70% of production will come from dry or natural moisture processing, without adding water to the process and without using tailings dams. Today, the company produces 60% of iron ore using natural moisture processing. However, in 2024, from 30% of the production using wet processing, 16% will have filtered and dry-stacked tailings. Only 14% will continue using the conventional method, with wet concentration and tailings disposal in dams or deactivated extraction sites, as 40% of the current production. Thus, Vale will invest US$1.8 billion in filtering and dry stacking in the coming years. The first units to use the technique will be Vargem Grande complex (in Nova Lima), Pico, Cauê and Conceição mines (in Itabira), and Brucutu mine (in São Gonçalo do Rio Abaixo).

According to the president of New Steel, Ivan Montenegro, a pilot plant for FDMS will start operating at the Ferrous Metals Technology Center (CTF, Centro de Tecnologia de Ferrosos), in Nova Lima (Minas Gerais) in the second quarter, and the investment amounted almost US$3 million. The unit will be able to concentrate 30 metric tons of dry ore per hour, using magnetic separation technology with rare earth magnets.

Through this process, New Steel can deliver a concentrate with iron content up to 68%, from poor ore with content up to 40%, depending on its chemical and mineralogical composition. Currently, this concentration is produced by the method known as flotation, which uses water. In flotation, the tailings are usually disposed of in dams. With the dry concentration technology developed by New Steel, the tailings will be stacked. The company is already studying methods to use them as input for the civil construction industry, in addition to other initiatives, such as co-products.

The pilot project at CTF is the second carried out by Vale. Between 2015 and 2017, a similar plant was successfully operated at Fábrica mine in Minas Gerais. The president of New Steel explains that the good results were essential for Vale to see the potential of FDMS. The technology, however, has been tested since 2013. At the time, the equipment allowed a concentration of five metric tons per hour, rising to 15 metric tons in 2015 up to 30 metric tons in 2017. To be aligned with Vale's future projects, the company works on the development of large-capacity magnetic separators up to 100 metric tons per hour.

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Posted By : Yogender Pancholi on Mon, 10 Feb 2020
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