[VIDEO] How-To: Turn Iron Ore into Steel
Iron ore is one of the top three commodities mined in the world. The raw material, which is typically found in rocks and minerals, is rich in iron oxides and usually found in the form of magnetite, hematite, goethite, limonite or siderite.
The ore, which is an active ingredient in creating steel, is the world’s most commonly used metal, representing almost 95 percent of all metal used per year. Although prices for iron ore have been extremely unattractive as of late, we examine the process of turning the metal into steel.
The first stage of turning iron ore into steel is the processing. The rock is first grounded up with the ore being extracted using magnetic rollers. The fine-grained ore is then processed into coarse-grained clumps, which is used in the blast furnace.
According to ArcelorMittal, one of the largest steel and mining companies, a mixture of iron ore and coal is then heated in a blast furnace to produce molten iron (pig iron), from which steel is made.
“In a basic oxygen furnace, molten iron ore is the principal raw material and is mixed with varying quantities of steel scrap and alloys to produce different grades of steel. In an electric arc furnace, recycled steel scrap is melted directly into new steel. About 12% of our steel is made from recycled steel.”
The steel from the furnace is passed through continuous casters and is formed into slabs, blooms and billets. From there it’s transformed into a wide range of finished steel products through hot and cold rolling processes. Last but not least, slabs are rolled into flat products; blooms are shaped into girders, beams and other structural shapes; and billets are formed into bars and rods.
Copper production from top ten companies to increase by 3.8%
Copper production from the world’s top companies is set to increase by up to 3.8% this year, following a fall of 0.2% in 2020, GlobalData analysis reveals. Last year’s marginal slump saw production drop to 11.76 million tonnes (Mt).
The initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mining operations was immense, however, six of the ten largest copper producers succeeded in increasing output last year. In 2021, copper production from the top ten copper companies is expected to bounce back, rising by up to 3.8%, to reach 12.2Mt, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The highest increase in copper production was by Canada’s First Quantum, which, despite all the challenges, reported 10.4% growth in 2020. The company’s Sentinel mine in Zambia and Cobre Panama were key contributors to this growth. While the latter remained under care and maintenance between April and August 2020, it delivered record production levels during the subsequent months.
Codelco, the world’s largest producer of the red metal used in electric vehicles, also bucked the trend.
Vinneth Bajaj, Associate Project Manager at GlobalData, commented: “Despite Codelco reporting over 3,400 active cases during July 2020, the company achieved 1.2% growth in its production in 2020. The company implemented a four-phase plan, as part of the COVID-19 measures, to ensure the health and safety of its employees, while also avoiding any significant impact to its copper output.”
Although the overall impact was minimal, declines in production were observed from Glencore (8.2%), Antofagasta (4.7%), BHP (3.9%) and Freeport McMoRan (1.3%). Reduced operational workforces due to COVID-19 measures, lower ore grades and production halts due to maintenance were the key disruptors to output during 2020.
The move towards electric vehicles and clean energy from renewables sources such as solar panels and wind turbines has driven the copper price to all-time highs. Copper has been among the best performers over the last month where metals ranging from aluminum to iron ore have surged to their highest prices in years. The rally is being fueled by stimulus measures, near-zero interest rates and signs that economies are recovering from the global pandemic.