24/01/2006 - 21:00

Patience pays off for HIsmelt

24/01/2006 - 21:00

Bookmark

Save articles for future reference.

It has been a long and very expensive road to production for the new technology HIsmelt iron plant at Kwinana, just south of Perth.

Patience pays off for HIsmelt

It has been a long and very expensive road to production for the new technology HIsmelt iron plant at Kwinana, just south of Perth.

The $400 million plant, which took two years to build, went into continuous commercial production late last year and is currently cranking up to full production of 800,000 tonnes of molten iron a year.

These development costs are on top of the $600 million spent developing the technology – that enables the cleaner, more efficient smelting of fine iron ore and coal directly into molten iron – over the last 20 years by major partner Rio Tinto.

The plant is expected to take nearly three years to reach full production. Meanwhile, the iron produced will be sold as pig iron once sufficient stocks have built up.

However, the plant can trace its local origins back to 1991, when the HIsmelt Research and Development Facility was built at Kwinana with a design capacity of 100,000t/year.

The major investment for the plant now in production came from joint venturers Rio Tinto (60 per cent), US steelmaker Nucor Corp (25 per cent), Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp (10 per cent) and Chinese steelmaker Shougang Corp (5 per cent).

The Commonwealth provided a $50 million grant for the develop-ment of multi-user infra-structure, with further incentives available as commercialisation proceeds.

The Western Australian government provided assistance in securing the land at Kwinana.

At its peak, about 900 people were engaged on the site, with operator HIsmelt (Operations) Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, now utilising 70 full-time employees.

The HIsmelt technology offers significant technical and environmental advantages over existing iron making techniques, using WA iron ore and low-volatile coal from Queensland.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive officer Sam Walsh acknowledged the support of the Commonwealth and WA governments in the establishment “of this world-beating technology at a commercial scale”.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options