Vale opens iron ore grinding hub in China

Brazilian mining giant Vale put its first iron ore grinding center in China into operation yesterday, The Paper reported.The base is located at the Shulang Lake Ore Transfer Terminal at Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, China’s largest iron ore and crude oil transfer base. It has three production lines with an annual production capacity of three million tons. The plant’s first product, GF88, is a new iron ore pellet feed. Ore grinding is the process by which mechanical equipment reduces ore to a powder. The latest ore grinding equipment used at the base will not produce gangue or waste water as neither fuel nor water is required during production.

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Rio de Janiero-based Vale is the world’s largest producer of iron ore, pellets and nickel.

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port in southwestern Zhejiang province is the busiest port in the world in terms of cargo tonnage. Last year it had cargo throughput of 1.12 billion tons and container throughput of 27.53 million twenty-foot equivalent units.

The unit, a partnership with Ningbo Zhoushan Port Group, is generating a completely new product, known as GF88. The high-grade ground iron ore fine uses the company’s flagship Carajás Fines as raw material and will partially feed the growing demand for pellets in China’s steel sector.

GF88, Vale said, provides an environmentally-friendly solution for pellet production. It also supports steelmaking clients with the challenge of reducing their carbon footprint, part of the company’s scope 3 emissions plan. 

“GF88 is a truly ‘green’ mineral product. It enjoys high iron content, low impurities and low loss-on-ignition characteristics. It also deploys a unique, innovative and environmental-friendly production process, which has no need for heating or water and generates no tailings,” Marcello Spinelli, Vale’s executive director of ferrous minerals, said in the statement.

Spinelli noted that, despite the challenges brought by the covid-19 pandemic, the technical teams in Brazil and China have been working together to advance the Shulanghu grinding project while maintaining health and safety as top priorities.

While steel mills in other countries have idled blast furnaces due to sluggish demand, steel production in China, the world’s top steelmaker, has been robust, fuelled by healthy profit margins and government stimulus measures.

The country, however, is struggling to minimize the industry’s heavy carbon footprint. The highly polluting process of making steel involves adding coking coal to iron ore to make the alloy, and is responsible for up to 9% of global greenhouse emissions.

Vale’s new product could help reduce pollution, the company said, as the use of pellets in steelmaking cuts emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Vale, the world’s top iron ore miner, is also the biggest producer of pellets and pellet feed. The Rio de Janeiro-based company teamed up with NZP Group in 2016 to produce Brazilian Blended Fines and signed an agreement to launch the GF88 in December last year.