Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Ironing Botswana: Explorers go for the hunt of Steel

More companies are joining the race to explore the belly of Botswana, sparking a renewed interest in iron mining in a country best known for diamonds.

Recently the minerals minister Lefoko Moagi said the country has more to offer besides the shiny gems and has been granting licences to exploration companies for copper and iron ore.

The ministry recently granted India’s Yashomann Industries to develop the Ikongwe iron ore mine in the country.

“The mine is also looking at processing some of the run-on-mine material for local steel production. This will revive the local steel industry,” Moagi said in an interview with international news agency Reuters.

Chetan Patil, director of Vision Ridge, the business developing the mine, also told Reuters that the deposit would produce a million tonnes of iron ore per year for ten years, with iron ore content of up to 65%, commonly referred to as 65% Fe.

The company joins another explorer, Tsodilo Resources Limited, an international diamond and metals exploration company which is currently assessing the potential viability of the iron deposits in the North-West District of Botswana.

Last week, Tsodilo revealed that it has entered into a research collaboration with the Department of Chemical, Materials and Metallurgical Engineering at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) and Morupule Coal Mine to undertake metallurgical studies with respect to the potential of generating steel in Botswana.

“Commercially, these high-grade pellets and DRI product would be used to produce steel in electric arc furnaces within Botswana, the region and internationally,” the company said in a statement.

Tsodilohas previously disclosed that preliminary metallurgical results show that the identified area of focus for iron mining is expected to be a premium high-grade product containing +67% iron magnetite, which will be ideal pellet feed material.

“The collaboration study with BIUST and MCM will identify if the XIF magnetite can be further beneficiated to a pellet feed and upgraded to a DRI pellet or similar product using Botswana coal as the reductant,” the company said.

High-grade ores over 65% Fe currently command larger price premiums over standard ores of 62% Fe resulting in higher margins for suppliers of high-grade products. The current global drive for lower emission steel production results in steel producers dramatically increasing their demand for these high-grade ores.

Iron ore increased in price by 74 percent in 2020 outperforming all other metals by a significant margin as iron ore reached close to $180 per tonne (62% Fe, CFR China) in December 2020, a level not seen for almost a decade and the price continues today in the range of US$170 per tonne.

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