How is steel made – from iron ore to steel?

Iron production in a blast furnace

Most of the iron ore in South Africa has a relatively high grade (over 50%), so after crushing it can be smelted directly without gravity separation, magnetic separation and other mineral processing processes.

Smelting is carried out in a blast furnace. The blast furnace has a cylindrical steel shell and is lined with refractory materials such as refractory bricks. The height of a large blast furnace can reach more than 100 m.

Iron production in a blast furnace

The raw materials used for smelting in blast furnaces are mainly iron ore, fuel (coke) and flux (limestone). Usually, smelting 1 ton of pig iron requires 2-3 tons of raw materials, including 1.5-2.0 tons of iron ore, 0.4-0.6 tons of coke and 0.2-0.4 tons of flux.

Loading: Load raw materials including iron ore, coke and limestone into the blast furnace in a certain proportion from the top of the furnace, and blow hot air (1000~1300℃) from the bottom of the blast furnace. furnace in the tuyere.

Iron smelting: At high temperatures, the carbon in the coke and the carbon monoxide produced by burning carbon capture the oxygen in the iron ore to form iron (3CO + Fe 2 O 3 → 2Fe + 3CO 2), and the molten iron is discharged from the bottom of the furnace.

Slag unloading. Waste iron ore, coke and slag combined with ash and limestone are discharged through the pig iron outlet and slag outlet respectively.

The gas exits from the top of the furnace and is used as industrial gas after the dust is removed.

Steel production in a converter

Pig iron smelted in a blast furnace, which is called pig iron, contains a small amount of impurities and is not pure. Cast iron is hard and brittle, so it cannot be used directly.

Therefore, it needs to be transported to a converter for oxygen blowing and smelting, or to an electric furnace to be reacted with steel scrap and remelted into steel in the steelmaking process.

After the steel production process is completed, the molten steel enters the casting mold to be converted into steel ingots, or is sent to the continuous casting and rolling process to be rolled into rebar, wire, hot-rolled coil, pipes and other sheets or steel. bars.

iron ore price
Given the current rate of Covid-19 vaccinations, the optimism is exacerbated by the prospect of a strong economic recovery, which in turn will boost demand for iron ore, a raw material for steel production.

Therefore, iron ore is a profitable investment project.

Iron ore demand analysis in South AfricaPolitical support for the South African government

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of South Africa believes that steel is “currently the most important contribution to the manufacturing industry”, so supporting the steel processing and marketing industry is a priority for the government.

Support for South African government policy

Political support for the South African government

To prevent the flooding of other countries’ steel products in the domestic market, the South African government pursued a trade protection policy and continually raised tariffs on imported steel products.

Additional protection measures for domestic inverters are also being studied. Protective tariffs for hot rolled coil, which expired on August 10, 2000, will remain in effect for one more year, until August 2021.

Infrastructure projects are on the rise.
South Africa has the highest level of infrastructure in Africa. Since the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the South African government has accelerated the construction of infrastructure such as power plants, railways and dams.

He increased investment in planning for commercial logistics, stadiums, underground facilities, and road construction, and improved the living conditions of citizens. This will also stimulate demand for structural steel.

Infrastructure projects are on the ascendant in South Africa

Infrastructure projects are gaining momentum in South Africa.

The South African government, together with construction companies, plans to create large-scale residential projects and resorts in areas with better socio-economic conditions. About $35 billion will be invested in infrastructure projects in South Africa over the next 5-10 years.

Demand for steel is leading the automotive industry.
Among industries where demand for steel is downstream in South Africa, the automotive industry has a higher demand for steel.

Since 2013, South Africa’s DTI has formally implemented the Automotive Manufacturing and Development Program (ADDP), in which the automotive industry has been chosen as the main focus of development, providing subsidies to research and development enterprises, periodically reducing tariffs on imported vehicles and exempting taxes on imported cars.

parts needed for automotive production.

Automotive industry leads in demand for steel

Demand for steel leads the automotive industry

Based on previous efforts, South Africa’s total vehicle production on the African continent is currently at 64% and its vehicles are exported to 148 countries around the world.

However, its global market share is only 0.68%, so there is still a lot of room for improvement. Thus, the demand for steel still exists.

Growing demand for iron ore in China

Since the beginning of 2021, the price of iron ore has continued to rise, largely driven by rising industrial demand in China.

Growing demand for iron ore in China

Last year, China produced 1.05 billion tons of steel, surpassing the 1 billion mark for the first time. The amount of steel forged in China exceeds that of the rest of the world, a record high.

As China has become the world’s largest consumer of iron ore, South Africa has benefited from supplies from the country, especially since Brazil’s production has yet to fully recover from the tailings dam failure.


The South African steel market is promising, so the demand for iron ore will grow. Early investment in iron ore means early access to the future market.

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