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Iron Ore 2009
Perth, Australia, July 27-29, 2009

The recent Iron Ore 2009 conference held at the Burswood Convention Centre in Perth followed on from the Iron Ore 2002, 2005 and 2007 conferences held in Perth and Fremantle over the last 7 years. As for previous conferences, this year’s conference jointly organised by The AusIMM and CSIRO was a great success. It attracted around 380 delegates, including 22 overseas delegates from various countries including Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Spain, UK and USA. While the number of overseas delegates was less than for the last conference, the overall level of attendance exceeded expectations given the recent global financial crisis. The conference also received overwhelming support from sponsors and there were a record 38 exhibitors.

The aim of the conference was to bring together geologists, geoscientists, mineralogists, metallurgists, managers, engineers, operators and equipment and reagent suppliers involved in all technical aspects of the iron ore industry from the host rocks to production and processing. Since the last conference in 2007, there have been substantial iron ore price increases and unprecedented growth in the industry, but recent worldwide economic changes have adversely impacted on this growth and put immense pressure on reducing costs. Notwithstanding this, the strong demand for iron ore is predicted to return over the next couple of years, so the industry is positioning itself now to meet this demand and underpin the ongoing growth of the iron ore industry. Hence, the conference Theme of “Ensuring Ongoing Growth” was particularly relevant. The main topic areas covered in the conference were exploration, geology, geostatistics and ore reserve estimation, ore characterisation, mining, processing and project development.

On behalf of The AusIMM President, Kate Sommerville (AusIMM Director) officially welcomed delegates to Iron Ore 2009, after which the Hon. Norman Moore, Minister for Mines and Petroleum, officially opened the conference and provided an overview of the WA Government’s action agenda for the mining industry. This was followed by keynote presentations on “The Fortescue Metals Group Story - From Exploration to the Third Largest Iron Ore Producer in Australia” by Graeme Rowley and “Present Situation and Future Trends in the Chinese Steel Industry Trends and Utilisation of Low-Grade Iron Ore Resources” by Prof Deqing Zhu from Central South University in Changsha, China. Other keynote presentations during the conference included:

  • “Half a Century of Iron Ore Growth - Lessons Learnt for Future Development” by the Hon. Richard Court (Chairman, GRD Development)
  • “Oakajee Port and Rail Infrastructure Project and Jack Hills, Weld Range and Rocklea Ore Deposits” by Paul Kopejtka (Murchison Metals)
  • “Genesis of Banded-Iron Formation-Derived Iron Ore and Application to Exploration” by Prof Steffen Hagemann (University of Western Australia)
  • “In-Pit Crushing and Conveying” by David Morrison (SKM)
  • “Sustaining a Jewel in the National Crown: Science and Technology for the Iron Ore Sector” by Dr Peter Lilly (Director, CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship)

Together with other papers presented at the conference, delegates were treated to a journey spanning the very beginning of the iron ore industry in Australia in the late 1960s where exports began at 5 Mt/a through to today 40 years later where iron ore exports have risen to more that 300 Mt/a and growing. Over this period the focus has moved for hematite ores to hematite/goethite ores and more recently to the development of Australia’s magnetite resources, with quite a few papers in the conference outlining magnetite projects and the processing challenges. Delegates were also provided with updates on iron ore projects and processing technologies in Brazil, Peru, Canada, South Africa, India and China, as well as mine closure and a vision for the future and the big problems that need to be tackled to underpin the iron ore industry.

As for previous conferences, there was no shortage of opportunities for networking during the lunch and coffee/tea breaks in the large Exhibition area, as well as at the Welcome Function sponsored by Bateman Engineering at the end of the first day and the Conference Dinner sponsored by URS on the second day.

After the conference there was a two-day tour of selected BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto iron ore operations in the Pilbara as well as a one day tour of Cliffs Natural Resources’ port and mining operations. For the Pilbara tour, two aircraft were chartered to visit BHP Billiton’s Port Hedland and Orebody 18 operations as well as Rio Tinto’s Paraburdoo operations. On the way back to Perth both aircraft overflew the Whaleback, West Angelas, Area C and Yandi operations of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto and provided participants with a “birds eye” view of these operations and the impressive scale of the Whaleback open pit and the rapidly expanding Marra Mamba and Channel Iron mining operations. The costs of the charters were kindly subsidised by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, as were the lunches and social functions during the tour. Participants enjoyed the opportunity to see a number of large Australian iron ore operations at first hand as well as the warm Pilbara hospitality.

A dedicated aircraft was also chartered for the Cliffs tour, which was generously subsidised by Cliffs Natural Resources. This involved inspection of train dumping, stockpiling and shiploading operations at Esperance and subsequently a tour of mining operations at Windarling north of Koolyanobbing. Participants enjoyed the impressive hospitality and were impressed with the focus on minimising environmental impact, particularly at the environmentally sensitive Esperance port.

While there are always opportunities for improvement, the overwhelming consensus was that Iron Ore 2009 was a great success. The high level support once again from the two Principal Sponsors Fluor and SKM is gratefully acknowledged, as well as the support from Bateman Engineering, URS, Amdel, Larox, MacMahon, Scantech, Dyno Nobel, FMG, IMP, Intalysis and Schenck. The exhibitors Amdel, Blackwoods, BMGS, Caspeo, Clariant, Craigs Mining Services, Coffee Mining, CSA, CSIRO, Essa, FerrAus, Fluor, Geoforce, Gulf Group, Haines Surveys, IMP, InnovXsystems, Intalysis, Intertek, Intrepid Geophysics, ioglobal, Kalassay Group, Larox, METS, Metso, Orica, PANalytical, Pluton Resources, Scantech, Schenck Process, SGS, SKM, Snowden, The Flowsheet Guru, URS and Xstrata are also thanked for their support. Finally, the success of the conference was a team effort, so I would like to thank the Iron Ore 2009 Organising Committee (Dr Erick Ramanaidou, Geoff Beros, John Clout, Richard Dewhirst, Antonia Riley, James Shaw, Kerry Turnock and John Visser), The AusIMM team (Miriam Way, Alison McKenzie, Katy Andrews, Angie Spry, Kristy Pocock and Kylie McShane), Session Chairs, authors, presenters and paper reviewers for their hard work in ensuring the success of the conference.

The next conference in the series is planned for 2011.

Dr Ralph Holmes, Conference Chair




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