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Project overview
  • Lead Organisation

    HILT CRC

    Location

    Adelaide, South Australia

    ARENA Program

    Iron and Steel Research and Development Funding Round

  • Start date

    1 March 2024

    End date

    1 February 2029

  • Project Partners
    Curtin University
    Fortescue
    Roy Hill
    The University of Adelaide
    Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia
    BG&E Resources
    Proxa Australia

Summary

HILT CRC will lead the development of a scalable hydrometallurgical caustic leaching process to upgrade iron ore using the reagents derived from seawater reverse osmosis (RO) brines.  

Need

This project was selected as part of the competitive Iron and Steel R&D Funding Round under the Transformative Research Accelerating Commercialisation (TRAC) Program to create solutions for Australian iron ore, predominantly comprised of lower grade ore from the Pilbara, and to decarbonise domestic steel production. Near-term investment in innovative R&D is a critical enabler to rapidly develop the technologies required to transition to a net zero future state. Projects supported by the Iron and Steel R&D Funding Round seek to accelerate novel and innovative low emissions iron and steel technologies using Australian iron ore. 

When producing iron ore for direct reduced iron (DRI), achieving high-grade material is essential. Alkaline leaching of impurities, under appropriate operating conditions, presents a unique solution to upgrading iron ore sourced from the Pilbara region. 

The project aims to improve commercial viability of low-grade iron ore beneficiation through generation of valuable by-products and using seawater RO brines. 

Action

The project will be delivered in two stages, a Core Research Stage followed by a Research Commercialisation Stage. Research activity will be undertaken by Curtin University, in collaboration with HILT CRC and project partners. 

The Core Research Stage involves further development of the hydrometallurgical caustic leaching process to upgrade iron ore from 47-56% iron to 63-67% iron, using reagents derived from seawater RO brines by nanofiltration and bi-polar membrane electrodialysis while simultaneously providing valuable by-products, such as lithium salts, zeolites, silica and calcium and magnesium phosphates.  

The Research Commercialisation Stage involves completing an engineering study and costing of a pilot beneficiation plant, including an integrated process simulation to support decisions towards commercialisation and scaling of the technology. 

Outcome

The project will achieve the following outcomes: 

  1. Reduction in cost associated with using lower-grade Australian iron ores in low emissions DRI production through development of a hydrometallurgical caustic leaching process to upgrade iron ore using the reagents derived from seawater RO brines.  
  2. Increased research capacity in the Australian iron and steel sector, and the facilitation of collaboration between research groups and industry.  
  3. Improved commercial viability of low-grade iron ore beneficiation through generation of valuable by products and using seawater RO brines derived from hydrogen production.

Additional Impact

Within this project, four higher education students (2 MPhil and 2 PhD studies) will be trained in relevant technologies to contribute to a skilled workforce for future low emissions iron and steel technologies using Australian iron ore. 

Last updated
10 April 2024
Last updated 10 April 2024
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