“Vale has been developing technology to increase dry processing for years. Over the last decade, the company invested almost US$17,8 billion to deploy and expand the dry – or natural moisture – processing of the iron ore produced in Brazil. Over the next five years, we estimate to invest US$3.1 billion in similar processing facilities to achieve the goal of 70% of dry production.”
Director -Ferrous Metals Value Chain
Vale aims to invest up to US$100 million to build an industrial plant for dry magnetic concentration of low-grade iron ore. The Brazilian technology, known as FDMS (Fines Dry Magnetic Separation), is unique and has been developed by New Steel – a company acquired in late 2018. The capacity of the plant, which is expected to be installed in Minas Gerais, will be 1.5 million metric tons per year and the project is expected to start up by 2022. The patent of this technology is already recognized in 59 countries.
With New Steel, Vale estimates that, in 2024, 70% of production will come from dry or natural moisture processing, without adding water to the process and without using tailings dams. Today, the company produces 60% of iron ore using natural moisture processing. Thus, Vale will invest US$1.8 billion in filtering and dry stacking in the coming years. The first units to use the technique will be Vargem Grande complex (in Nova Lima), Pico, Cauê and Conceição mines (in Itabira), and Brucutu mine (in São Gonçalo do Rio Abaixo).
According to the president of New Steel, Ivan Montenegro, a pilot plant for FDMS will start operating at the Ferrous Metals Technology Center (CTF, Centro de Tecnologia de Ferrosos), in Nova Lima (Minas Gerais) in the second quarter, and the investment amounted almost US$3 million. The unit will be able to concentrate 30 metric tons of dry ore per hour, using magnetic separation technology with rare earth magnets.
The pilot project at CTF is the second carried out by Vale. Between 2015 and 2017, a similar plant was successfully operated at Fábrica mine in Minas Gerais. The president of New Steel explains that the good results were essential for Vale to see the potential of FDMS. To be aligned with Vale’s future projects, the company works on the development of large-capacity magnetic separators up to 100 metric tons per hour.
Vale’s Director of Ferrous Metals Value Chain, Vagner Loyola, points out that Vale has been developing technology to increase dry processing for years. Over the last decade, the company invested almost US$17,8 billion to deploy and expand the dry – or natural moisture – processing of the iron ore produced in Brazil. Over the next five years, the company aims at investing an estimate of US$3.1 billion in similar processing facilities to achieve the goal of 70% of dry production.
In Pará, almost 80% of production already uses this technology in the so-called North System. The main plant in Carajás, Plant 1, is being converted to use the natural moisture processing; from its 17 processing lines, 11 already use dry processing and the remaining six wet processing lines will be converted by 2023. The treatment plants at Serra Leste (in Curionópolis) and the S11D complex (in Canaã dos Carajás) do not use water to treat the ore. In Minas Gerais, dry processing was expanded from 20% in 2016 to 32% in 2019. Today, this type of processing is used by several units, such as Brucutu, Alegria, Fábrica Nova, Fazendão, Abóboras, Mutuca, and Pico.
“In Minas Gerais operations, all the units that could be converted to dry processing production are already in operation,” explains Loyola. “Then, we are using tailings filtering and stacking as well as the dry concentration technology from New Steel to reduce the use of dams.”