Australian Company Starts Construction on U.S. Chromite Operation

Aerial view of Oregon Resources’ chromite processing facility near Coos Bay, Oregon.

In addition to processing mineral sands for chromite, the company will also attempt
to recover garnet and zircon. (Photos courtesy of Oregon Resources)
Following a February 11 decision by the U.S. District Court ruling that an environmental group’s request for an injunction to delay work at a 2,600-acre mineral sands property near Coos Bay, Oregon, USA, was without merit, Australia-based Industrial Minerals Corp.—through its subsidiary Oregon Resources Corp. (ORC)—officially claimed status as the only U.S. domestic producer of foundry-grade chromite.

According to a press statement released by the company, 90% of mined chromite is typically used to make ferrochrome, a corrosion-resistant alloy of steel and chrome. But only lowcarbon ferrochrome can be used to make stainless steel. And due to the various costs associated with producing low-carbon ferrochrome, its price is usually more than $4,000/ton.

The company said its chromite at Coos Bay, according to third party analysis, has attributes that can significantly lower this cost: it possesses very low carbon content compared with the rest of the world’s chromite, most of which is mined in Australia and South Africa; and, it also has low silica content, a favorable CR/Fe ratio, uniform sizing, and is free-dig to a depth of 60 ft—in other words, excavation requires no drilling, blasting or crushing.

Because of these characteristics, IDM said it believes that its Coos Bay chromite can produce low-carbon ferrochrome for $2,100 per ton, including expenses. And, based on historical pricing, this material could sell for $7,000 per ton on a longterm supply contract.

Monthly chromite revenue of $4 million from the site will commence this summer, said IDM, and could continue for more than 20 years.

IDM is also attempting to recover industrial garnet at Coos Bay; as much as 12,000 tons of it per year, an amount equal to 80% of the total garnet mined annually in the U.S. The majority of industrial garnet is used as an abrasive for such applications as optical lens grinding, plate-glass grinding, scratch-free lapping of semiconductors, hydrocutting of marble and granite, and as a filtration medium in water-purification systems.

IDM also expects Coos Bay will produce 3,700 tons of zircon a year, as well as up to 50,000 tons per year of high-iron ilmenite, a material used for specialist foundry-related applications.

As featured in Womp 2011 Vol 02 -