Chemical additive boosts iron ore yield & cuts waste

Caitlyn WattsPilbara News
Iron ore being loaded into a bulk carrier docked at Rio Tinto's Parker Point facility in Dampier.
Camera IconIron ore being loaded into a bulk carrier docked at Rio Tinto's Parker Point facility in Dampier. Credit: Pilbara News, Tom Zaunmayr

A new chemical has been developed to help increase iron ore yield while reducing the cost and environmental impacts of mining waste.

The new chemical additive was created by researchers at The University of Western Australia, with school of engineering Professor Yee-Kwong Leong saying the patented composite chemical additive would reduce the impact of tailings, which are unwanted mining by-products that go to waste during processing.

“Some iron ore processing plants in the Pilbara experience issues separating valuable iron ore from undesired materials in wet processing situations,” he said.

“When separating the iron ore from the waste becomes too difficult, mining companies will dispose of the tailings in a dam.” The new chemical is added to a semi-liquid mixture containing valuable iron particles suspended in water, called a slurry.

It works by separating the iron ore from impurities in the slurry.

Professor Leong said the chemical could improve iron yield in wet processing situations by 3 to 7 per cent which would enable the iron concentration of slurry to be increased to 58 per cent.

It could also reduce the thickness of tailings by up to 95 per cent.

“We have demonstrated a more efficient way of extracting iron ore from waste, which will reduce material thrown away in tailings dams and save millions of dollars per year,” he said. The new chemical is required to undergo a safety and environmental management evaluation until it can be used in industry.

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