China depends heavily on iron ore imports, with around 80 percent of the supply currently coming from abroad. In light of this, a group of scientists has set the goal to increase self-sufficiency in iron ore.
The main reason behind China’s dependency on imported iron ore is that the country’s iron ore is relatively low-grade and expensive to process.
Ever since 35-year-old Sun Yongsheng acquired a doctorate in mining science six years ago, he has dedicated his time to one thing – highly efficient exploitation technology for refractory iron ore resources.
“The main problem is how to industrialize and commercialize the newly developed technologies, as many advanced methods remain in laboratories. Our success will be the result of practical application and the participation of private capital,” said Sun Yongsheng, the researcher at the National-local Joint Engineering Research Center of High-efficient Exploitation Technology for Refractory Iron Ore Resources.
Two years ago, the research center that Sun works for was approved by the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s economic planner, to achieve clean and efficient use of refractory iron ore.
The center has built a key innovation technology system for the green exploitation of iron ore, and develops several frontier technologies in the research areas such as the safe and efficient exploitation of deep resources in large iron mines, new energy-saving grinding technology and equipment, intelligent mining and mineral processing technology, etc.
Their core technologies are expected to realize the exploitation of 10 billion tonnes of domestic refractory iron ore resources – nearly ten times the country’s iron ore imports in 2020.
“Thanks to the participation of private capital, we’ve established several production bases across the country, which will allow us to transform theoretical approaches into the actual output of iron ore. And also, our technologies have been applied by many iron mines in Africa,” said Han Yuexin, the director of the center.
Experts say that diversifying the sources of supply for commodities like iron ore has become part of China’s long-term strategy to fend off the risks of reliance on any single source.
“We’ve set the goal to promote the highly efficient exploitation technology for the country’s sizeable refractory iron ore mines while building production centers at major seaports to process imported refractory iron ore as soon as the shipment arrives,” Han said.
China’s demand for imported iron ore has been strong. Increasing self-sufficiency certainly cannot be realized overnight, but it will yield long-term benefits in terms of resource security.