Northern Iron looks to Prince Rupert as export option for HBI

Hot briquetted iron (HBI) could be making its way through the Port of Prince Rupert in the years ahead.

Hot biriquetted iron could soon be making its way through the Port of Prince Rupert.

Hot briquetted iron (HBI) could be making its way through the Port of Prince Rupert in the years ahead as Northern Iron Corp. works to develop two mining properties in Ontario.

The company is currently in a holding pattern following a recent decline in the resource market, but is working to secure a partner to develop the Griffith mine near Ear Falls, Ontario and Karas property near Kenora, Ontario.

“When that would take place, with everything aligning, it might be by the end of the year. After that it would be a matter of getting the Is dotted and Ts crossed. Following that there would need to be a feasibility study … the earliest time we could start production would be late 2015. After that it would take two years to build the plant, so the product would only really start being shipped in 2018,” said Northern Iron president and CEO Basil Botha.

“I hope things change quickly so we can get going on this.”

Although the company noted “almost the entire transportation infrastructure” is in place to export 1.5 million tonnes of HBI, what that export will look like remains to be seen due to the preliminary nature of the project.

“Whether we would be first shipping to North American markets through Thunder Bay or to Asian markets through Prince Rupert, I don’t know. Whether 500,000 tonnes is shipped to Asia or one million tonnes is shipped to Asia, I can’t say yet,” he said, noting conversations have taken place with the Prince Rupert Port Authority to confirm available capacity.

“The product we would ship does not take a lot of space like coal. You would need five to six times as much space to ship the same amount of coal as HBI.”

Prince Rupert Port Authority manager of corporate communications Michael Gurney also acknowledged discussions with Northern Iron Corp are very preliminary, but said shipping that type of product is nothing new in Prince Rupert.

“Although we can’t speak to existing or potential cargo movements publicly, I can say the export of metal products – particularly scrap metal — through Fairview Terminals has taken place before. The movement of metals through the Prince Rupert is not unprecedented,” he said.

HBI is a high density, premium form of Direct Reduced Iron that serves as a complementary and viable metallic supplement to scrap steel. The metal has been compacted at a temperature greater than 650° C and has a density greater than 5,000 kilograms per cubic meter.