By Marta Nogueira RIO DE JANEIRO – With a pioneering technology for dry iron ore beneficiation, which exempts the construction of dams, Brazilian company New Steel plans to invest US$ 700 million in its two main projects in Brazil and North America, in two and a half years, while targeting new global contracts.
The company, which emerged in 2007, has obtained patents in 20 countries, including Brazil, with its beneficiation method, and is well positioned to deal with a market that is increasingly fearful of building new mining dams, Gustavo Emina said to Reuters, CEO at New Steel.
The company method, which can transform low-grade ores into high value-added products, also works to process tailings from mineral exploration with low iron content and of no commercial value and turn them into an economically viable product with high levels of iron and low levels of contaminants.
“Mining has always been an activity not very environmentally friendly… Our goal is much more to recover environmental liabilities,” Emina said in a telephone interview.
According to the executive, the waste from the beneficiation of New Steel, controlled by Lorentzen Empreendimentos, is only sand with less than 5 percent iron, which can be used for other purposes, such as in the construction market.
Currently, the main business model of New Steel is the setting up and operation of industrial ore processing plants, in areas of the company or third-party areas, sharing the results obtained.
In its project at the most advanced stage to date, New Steel will operate a beneficiation pilot plant of tailings from the mine of Fábrica, belonging to the Brazilian mining company Vale, in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais.
New Steel obtained a mining permit for the activity at the end of last year, and the project is expected to start operating in the first quarter of 2020, with an annual production capacity of approximately 1.2 million tons of ore iron, for 10 years, according to the licensing document.
For contractual reasons, Emina avoided giving more details about the contract with Vale, the largest global iron ore producer.
Meanwhile a second project of the company in North America is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Emina said the deal involves one of the largest steel company in the United States, and only anticipated that the scope would be even larger than the Brazilian project, involving beneficiation and pelletizing.
New Steel is also in advanced negotiations to eliminate environmental liabilities of large mining companies in the iron quadrangle, south-central region of Minas Gerais, contributing to the development of the mining industry, Emina said to Reuters, without getting into details.
“Today licensing new dams is a problem, raising is also a problem, so if we can recover these dams, we increase the lifespan of the mine,” he said.
But the focus of the company is not only on Brazil. This week, the company changed its headquarters to the Netherlands, in search of its internationalization. In the next five years, Emina said the company may go public abroad.
In the midst of this strategy, the company also evaluates other contracts outside Brazil.
According to the executive, it took some time for New Steel to gain trust of big companies: “The market (of mining) is very resistant to changes, it took some years to convince large mining companies that the process was extremely efficient and competitive”, he stated.
Tests with the new technology began to be carried out in 2010, with the operation of the first experimental plant of dry beneficiation of New Steel, in Minas Gerais.
Since then, the company has not stopped looking for technological improvements.
On another front, the company will invest 20 million reais for the expansion of its Technology Center for Sustainable Solutions (CTSS), aimed at the scientific and technological development of sustainable products and services in the mineral, metallurgical, mechanical and solid waste areas.
According to Emina, CTSS, located in the industrial hub of Xerém, in the municipality of Duque de Caxias (RJ), currently has 10 thousand square meters and will add another 15 thousand.
The expansion will also increase the production capacity of certain equipment that is developed on site.