Speaker Spotlight: Dr Narendar Kumar Nanda

15 May 2019

As we build up to Iron Ore 2019, we will be interviewing our keynote speakers on some key issues within the Iron Ore industry.

We recently asked Dr Narendar Kumar Nanda for his views on the industry. Dr Nanda is the Director (Technical), NMDC. He holds a M. Tech. (Mining) degree and PhD in Mineral Processing from Indian Institute of Technology (ISM) Dhanbad and Sri Krishanadevaraya University, respectively. He has over 30 years of vast experience and specialisation in mine operations, mine development and production related activity.

1. In 2017 there was a strong focus on the importance of mineralogy and petrology on iron ore processing characteristics (ie geometallurgy), the rationale being that you need to understand the detailed characteristics of an ore to optimise mining, blending, beneficiation and downstream processing operations. Do these characteristics still hold true in 2019?

In Indian context, geometallurgy would be important because:

  • India is bestowed with iron ore of basically two types. Hematite about 79% in Eastern sector in the states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand and magnetite mostly in states like Karnataka Goa and Andhra Pradesh. Karnataka
  • The iron ore production in India is touching more than 200Mt this financial year.
  • Rising production of below 60% Fe ore is indicating that the steel producers are more inclined to cut cost of production .
  • Production of below 60%Fe grade increased to 20% in FY17 compared to 16% in FY 16.These ore largely requires beneficiation which largely depends upon the geomettalurgy.
  • The trend has not yet slowed down in 2019 as the preference for utilising low grade iron ore has not slowed down. Many steel producer in India are tying up import of low grade iron ore

The reasons are because of techno commercial judgement.

  • The relative preference for different ore type depends on the market conditions, and the differentials between various iron ore grades
  • When margins are high and steel plants are making profit it is a general intend to use high grade ores to maximise the productivity of blast furnace by getting maximum yield. Inter grade price spreads tend to expand during these times. The blend gives scope for different grade bands of iron ore to be utilised.
  • Conversely when margin fall away steel plants look to low grade low cost ore to control cost and minimise the production

The market is driven by mostly Chinese steel production and presently there is a slow down.

The present situation seems that steel producers may look for low cost ore where geomettalurgy plays a big role. In my view 2019 for the time being will follow the same rationale and will look up once the measures taken by countries like China. India and Japan for growth in steel production start yielding result.

2. How important is flexibility when responding to today’s market conditions (Feijao collapse vs slowing Chinese economy)

The dam disaster at Feijao of Vale in February which is similar to 2015 disaster is a world concern with respect to causalities and iron ore sea borne trading relating to global steel production.

As China is the largest consumer of steel and iron ore (nearly 55 to 60% of total steel consumption ) slowdown in its economy has brought down the demand of steel thus restraining the global steel price to rise however the dam breakdown at Feijao at VALE has put pressure on Iron ore prices to rise leading to higher input cost for steel plants followed by higher steel price. A situation where two opposite factors are facing each other. Ii now becomes important for the steel plants to adopt flexible procurement for two reasons (a) To keep the cost down (b) To maintain the supply level to the plant.

3. What message would you like to provide to the delegates – what do you hope will be the main message they will take away from your keynote presentation?

My keynote revolves round the impetus to be given to Research & Development (R&D). The take away from this will be conservation of mineral and what technology can do to achieve this. Sustainable Beneficiation will be key in future and with this we may not see one more dam disaster anywhere.

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