Rio Tinto and BHP, Australia’s two largest iron ore producers and the country’s biggest steelmaker, BlueScope Steel, have signed an agreement to jointly develop the country’s first ironmaking electric smelting furnace (ESF) pilot plant.

The collaboration will look to develop and potentially invest in a pilot facility and aims to demonstrate that production of molten iron from Pilbara ores is feasible using renewable power when combined with Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) process technology. If successful, it could help open a potential pathway to near-zero greenhouse gas emission-intensity operations for steelmakers that rely on Australian iron ore to meet global steel demand.

The parties will evaluate multiple sites across Australia for the planned pilot facility, taking into account factors such as infrastructure support, workforce availability, accessibility to target industries and supply chain partners, and suitability for operational trials. The pre-feasibility study is anticipated to conclude by year-end. If approved, the pilot facility could be commissioned as early as 2027.

''We firmly believe the best way to tackle a challenge of this scale is through collaboration with industry and importantly this new agreement will leverage the more than two years of work we have already completed with BlueScope on this technology.’’

Rio Tinto’s chief executive of iron ore, Simon Trott

Rio Tinto’s chief executive of iron ore, Simon Trott said: “The carbon intensity of iron and steelmaking requires profound change to meet the needs of our planet and our climate objectives. We must find better ways to enable these materials to be made more sustainably through leveraging technology. We firmly believe the best way to tackle a challenge of this scale is through collaboration with industry and importantly this new agreement will leverage the more than two years of work we have already completed with BlueScope on this technology.’’

Source: Proactive Investors