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10 years of mining innovation and success

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Global Mining Review,

The Companhia de Ferro Ligas da Bahia (Ferbasa) is located in Ipueira, a municipality in the state of Bahia in the northeast of Brazil. Ferbasa operates one of the largest chromite mines in Brazil and is considered a pioneer in the use of sensor-based sorting (SBS) technology.

10 years of mining innovation and success

The company processes chromite obtained from an underground mine. The extracted material is pre-concentrated using sorting technology that employs sensors, and is later used in the production of specialised steel alloys. With a processing capacity of 12 million tpy, the company has been using sensor-based sorting for 10 years, in a completely dry process that separates waste from high-grade chromite.

Eriberto Nascimento Leite, Mining Director at Ferbasa, is a firm believer in this technology that was completely new to the mining sector 10 years ago. Eriberto explains that SBS technology makes all the difference for Ferbasa; it allows the company to avoid unnecessary processing by separating a fraction of the high-grade material from the metallurgical process feed in advance. At Ferbasa, the use of sensor-based sorting technology has enabled an increase in production, in addition to reducing costs in the subsequent processes, such as comminution and the use of inputs, such as reagents.

Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) and sensor-based sorting go hand in hand

“Today, at Ferbasa, sensor-based sorting technology helps us adopt ESG practices, reducing waste, maximising production efficiency and contributing to the conservation of natural resources”, explains Eriberto Nascimento. Nowadays, it is not only the mined ore that is processed, but also the stockpiles, which contain considerable amounts of chromium. Stockpile treatment has the potential to increase productivity in the mine. In terms of resource use, there is potential to reduce the consumption of water, energy, and chemical reagents primarily because sensor-based sorting is a dry separation process.

How it all started: from curiosity to reality

Ferbasa has always used a pre-concentration process with the aim of separating lump ore, which has a high chromite content, from the low-grade ore that goes to the concentration plant. However, this used to be a manual separation process. Bartolomeu Fonseca, the former processing manager at Ferbasa, discovered an article about sensor-based sorting technology from STEINERT. In 2012, he prepared material to be sent for tests at STEINERT’s test and development centre in Germany, and these were successful.

The first sorting system, STEINERT XRT, is still in operation – with 34 000 hours of runtime

10 years ago, when the first equipment was being installed, Ferbasa’s employees were sceptical about its capacity to support the adverse conditions in the mine. This is why STEINERT Latinoamericana, a subsidiary of STEINERT GmbH in Germany, offered a ‘try and buy agreement’. Over the years, the equipment’s high level of durability has been verified, resulting in the first unit still being in operation today, with a total of 34 000 hours of runtime.

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