We direct our efforts toward serving the European and Asian steel industries by sourcing iron ore, manganese ore, tungsten, coking coal and PCI. Steel is a key driver for the world’s economies: the industry employs more than two million people supported by another four million suppliers.
Supply of raw materials is a key issue for the world steel industry. Iron ore and coking coal are used mainly in a blast furnace process for iron making. For this process, coking coal is turned into coke, an almost pure form of carbon, which is used as the main fuel and reductant in a blast furnace. Typically, it takes 1.5 tonnes of iron ore and 450kg of coke to produce one tonne of pig iron, the raw iron that comes out of a blast furnace. Some of the coke can be replaced by PCI coal into the blast furnace.
Iron is a common mineral on the Earth’s surface. Most iron ore is extracted in opencast mines in Australia and Brazil, carried to dedicated ports by rail, and then shipped to steel plants in Asia and Europe. Iron ore and coking coal are primarily shipped in capesize vessels, huge bulk carriers that can hold a cargo of 140,000 tonnes or more. Sea freight is an area of major concern for steelmakers today, as the high demand for raw materials is causing backlogs at ports, with vessels delayed in queues.
Steel is a basic product for the world’s key industries such as the automotive, transport, power, machineries, naval, aerospace and construction industries, indirectly employing more than 1.5 billion people.
Iron is the world’s most commonly used metal and iron ore is its key element. Iron-rich rocks are present worldwide but ore-grade commercial mining operations are dominated by: China, Australia, Brazil, India, Russia and the Ukraine, just to name the first six major players. World production, on average, is near two billion metric tonnes. The seaborne trade of iron ore shipped among countries is nearly 900 million metric tonnes. Aither Commodities sources ores from Mexico, India, Chile and Mongolia, serving China, India and Europe.
Manganese has been used since the 18th century with a high grade of dioxide. Manganese is essential to iron and steel production by virtue of its sulfur-fixing, deoxidizing and alloying properties. Steelmakers have increased the demand for manganese in recent years and account for 85% to 90% of the total demand. It is a key element of low-cost stainless steel formulations.
Tungsten was identified as a new element in 1781 and isolated in 1783. Its important ores includes wolframite and scheelite. Tungsten is a rare, hard metal that, under standard conditions and uncombined, is naturally found on earth only in chemical compounds. After carbon, it has the highest melting point. The hardness and density of tungsten are applied in obtaining heavy metal alloys such as high-speed steel, which contains as much as 18% tungsten. Another application is tungsten steel, an alloy made by tungsten and a small quantity of steel with exceptional hardness and stability at high temperatures.
Coking Coal & PCI
Coking coal is converted to coke by driving off impurities to leave almost pure carbon. The physical properties of coking coal cause the coal to soften, liquefy and then re-solidify into hard but porous chunks when heated in absence of oxygen. It must be low-sulphur and low-phosphorous. In order to drive off the impurities, it must heat at 1000°C -1100°C in the absence of oxygen (a process is called pyrolysis).