Maximizing lump production in Iron ore extraction
Iron ore is mined, crushed and separated into lump and fines components, which are sold as separate products. Quality (and therefore value) depends upon the shipped composition of each product matching a target composition vector, in iron and in several other minerals. The lump usually being higher in iron and lower in other minerals. Iron ore contains lumps of varying size, the biggest being more than 1 metre (40 inches) across and the smallest about 1 millimetre (0.04 inch). The blast furnace, requires lumps between 7 and 25 millimetres, so the ore must be crushed to reduce the maximum particle size. Fines, particles < 7 millimetres must first be agglomerated, reforming them into lumps of suitable size by a process called sintering and then be processed in blast furnaces to produce iron. Innovative solutions which can improve the quantity of lumps from the ore is required to reduce the cost and energy spent on the process of agglomeration.