Hawsons Iron has been developing its namesake project with the aim of producing a 70 per cent iron (Fe) product when operations are up and running.
This is poised to be one of the highest-grade Fe products on the seaborne market.
To put it in perspective, BHP’s Western Australian Iron Ore (WAIO) operations have historically produced iron ore at 61 per cent Fe. This will increase to 62 per cent once BHP’s South Flank operation has ramped up.
So how can Hawsons Iron achieve such a high-grade product?
In its just-released 2022 annual report, the company elaborated on its Hawsons Supergrade product and what it means for steelmakers.
“While magnetite, compared to hematite, is generally of a lower grade in the ground, the Hawsons orebody has a valuable differentiating characteristic: its relative softness,” Hawsons said in the report.
“Our orebody is contained within a softer siltstone rather than a hard, glass-like silica rock known as ‘chert’ that is common to the magnetite orebodies in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
“This softness offers commercial advantages, requiring less energy during crushing and grinding to process the ore into pellets and concentrates.
“A higher grade can be achieved because the ore breaks cleanly around the grain boundaries, easily separating from impurities and waste.”
So how does this benefit steelmakers?
Hawsons Iron said that while steel is a critical ingredient to the manufacturing of cars and construction products, it accounts for around 7 per cent of the world’s annual CO2 emissions.
“About 70 per cent of steel is produced using coal in oxygen blast furnaces,” Hawsons said. “These furnaces create emissions during the iron-making process when fed iron ore, coke and minerals used to remove impurities.
“Making one tonne of steel this way requires about 770kg of coking coal; and for every tonne of steel produced, almost two tonnes of carbon dioxide is created.”
Hawsons Iron said that in order to reduce steel’s carbon footprint, steelmakers are expected to transition from traditional blast furnaces to green hydrogen-based direct reduced iron (DRI) processes.
“DRI technology requires a feedstock of high-grade, low-impurity iron ore like Hawsons Supergrade to produce low-to-zero-emission green steel,” the company said.
“According to Boston Consulting Group, steel products made with high-grade, low-impurity, magnetite concentrate and green hydrogen DRI-electric arc furnace (EAF) have the potential to reduce emissions by up to 55 per cent compared to blast furnace production.”
Hawsons Iron said nearly 60 per cent of primary steel production, which represents 889 million tonnes of steel, is expected to come from DRI-EAF processes by 2050. This equates to a 10-fold jump in DRI-grade iron ore.
As Hawsons Iron continues to advance its namesake project, the company said it has received letters of intent for offtake of 12 million tonnes per annum of its 70 per cent Fe product.