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New Technology Promotes Large-scale Development of High Phosphorus Iron Ore in Hubei

On November 23rd, 2023, HYMTL Technology Co., Ltd. and Enshi Tujia & Miao Autonomous Prefecture Government of Hubei Province held a working conference on the development of Guandian Iron Mine in Enshi. Li Yongtai (Deputy Secretary and Chief Executive of Jianshi County of Enshi Prefecture), Yang Pin (Secretary and Director of Commerce Bureau of Enshi Prefecture), and the team of HYMTL attended the conference. At the conference, the two parties conducted in-depth discussions on the Technical Scheme and Economic Preliminary Description of Guandian High Phosphorus Iron Ore Development in Enshi, Hubei Province, which was submitted by HYMTL, and exchanged views on the next cooperation objectives and follow-up work arrangements. After the conference, the two parties will start the pilot test, feasibility study and the establishment of a joint venture company specializing in the development of Guandian high-phosphorus iron mine as soon as possible.

Leaders from Enshi Prefecture Economic and Information Bureau, Natural Resources and Planning Bureau, Ecological and Environmental Bureau, Forestry Bureau, Commerce Bureau and other leaders from Jianshi County government attended the conference.

Development Challenges of high phosphorus iron ore in China

In China, high-phosphorus iron ore, also known as "China Ningxiang type iron ore", is widely distributed in Hubei, Hunan and other regions. It has been found that  this kind of iron ore reserves are around 3.805 billion tons, and the Guandian iron ore reserves in Jianshi County, Enshi Prefecture, Hubei Province alone have exceeded 420 million tons. High-phosphorus iron ore has always been recognized as one of the most complex and difficult ores for beneficiation in the world. Its oolitic structure makes it difficult to separate harmful elements phosphorus and iron. For half a century, the state has organized many scientific research institutions and steel companies to carry out a large number of mineralogy technological researches and laboratory tests, but has not found a technically and economically feasible scheme.

Innovative process to break through the bottleneck of technology for the development of high phosphorus iron ore

How to efficiently separate densely embedded phosphorus from iron is the key to the development of high phosphorus iron ore. Even though the traditional dephosphorization processes including beneficiation, acid leaching chemical method and biological leaching method can separate phosphorus and iron through fine grinding and soaking, the cost is high. In addition, these processes pollute the environment seriously, so high-phosphorus iron ore has not been developed for a long time.

HYMTL has developed an innovative process of "hydrogen reduction+dephosphorization by melting-separation": removing the dephosphorization step in beneficiation process, preparing high-phosphorus iron ore into direct reduced iron(DRI), conducting melting-separation in an electric furnace, and removing phosphorus from DRI in the smelting process with low-cost dephosphorization agent. The process has greatly reduced the dephosphorization cost, which makes the development of high-phosphorus iron ore economical.

After many years of laboratory experiments with high phosphorus ores from Hubei and Algeria, the team of HYMTL demonstrated the technical feasibility of this route in theory. In addition, the process of "hydrogen reduction+dephosphorization by melting-separation" has been adopted by the developer of Gara Djebilet high-phosphorus iron ore project in Algeria, which will be applied on a large scale industrialization overseas.

Breakthrough in the constraints of mining giants and in the dilemma of iron resources met by China

China is short of iron ore resources, especially high-quality iron ore. According to World Iron and Steel Statistics 2023, by the end of 2022, China's iron ore production was 260 million tons, accounting for only 10.7% of the world's total output, while steel production accounted for 54% of the world's total output. The annual iron ore import reached 1.126 billion tons, accounting for 69.8% of the world's total imports. Although it is a big importer of iron ore, China does not have much of pricing power in the international iron ore market, and is also subject to the pricing mechanism and market manipulation of foreign mining companies. Every sharp fluctuation in the price of imported iron ore will have a huge impact on the production of the steel industry in China. The country urgently need to break this passive situation and effectively protect its interests and development space.

The development of this new technology and process provides another possibility for China to get out of the iron resource dilemma, which will fully explore the value of domestic iron ore and give the country more autonomy in iron ore resource.

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