Extending the life of Australia’s iron ore industry

By June 8th, 2011

Adding just one year to the life of Australia's iron ore industry could earn the nation a bonus $56 billion according to an article published today in the June 2011 issue of CSIRO's Process magazine.

The article highlights how a team of CSIRO scientists has stepped up to the challenge of adding years to the commercial lifespans of known ore resources and converting once uneconomic deposits into viable mines.

Theme leader, Dr Ralph Holmes, says CSIRO is conducting multiple lines of research into all facets of the industry to produce benefits across the whole value chain.

“Some of our research is what you might call ‘blue sky’,” Dr Holmes says. “The reward, however, for one of Australia’s most important industries could be substantial.

“What we are doing is aimed at extending the life of existing mines and helping bring in new deposits that are marginal today.”

Dr Ralph Holmes, Theme Leader, Iron Ore

“We are not focusing on one research project, which is often the preferred approach, because there is such a wide range of possible ways to add value to the iron ore industry.

“What we are doing is aimed at extending the life of existing mines and helping bring in new deposits that are marginal today.

“As much of Australia’s really high-grade ore has already been mined, we need to add value to the vast amounts of lower grade material to help Australia grow its market share and be more competitive against some of the new, high-grade overseas projects.”

Other stories in this issue of Process include:

  • Pinpointing mineral riches: chemical analysis of groundwater is the newest tool to be added to the mineral exploration toolbox – known as hydrogeochemical exploration, it offers a cost-effective technique for detecting orebodies such as gold, nickel, copper/zinc and uranium.
  • Composite refines refractory production: a new way of producing zirconia and silicon carbide composite materials is expected to make better use of Australia’s zircon and brown coal resources, and reduce the cost of refractories manufacturing.
  • Creative chemistry to optimise ore extraction: improvements to diagnostic tools used by the mining industry will enhance the characterisation and classification of ore types and determine the best process to extract metals from each of them.

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