Labrador City mining operations
The Iron Ore Company of Canada
is the largest producer of iron ore pellets
in Canada with mining and processing facilities
in Labrador City, Newfoundland and Labrador, a port in
Sept Îles, Quebec, a 418-kilometre railway connecting the
two, and a corporate office in Montreal. IOC has enjoyed
a long and successful history, celebrating its
billionth tonne sold in 2004 and its
50th year of operations in 2005.
IOC’s 50th year also proved to be its most successful.
The company set around 30 production
records with the highlight being annual
pellet production of 13.3Mt – more than 10 per cent higher than
the previous best. At the same time IOC had its best safety year
ever, reducing its injury rate by more than 20 per cent. These
achievements have been made possible by the hard work of
IOC’s 1,700 employees, who increased their productivity by
more than 10 per cent in 2005 after putting in place a new collective
agreement in the previous year. IOC has invested in providing
its people with world-class equipment and replacing and
refurbishing much of its 50-year-old infrastructure. It also
embarked on an ambitious business improvement program in
2001 (called Renewal) to reduce costs and improve operating
efficiency. “A lot of what we’ve been doing allowed us to get
these incremental increases, and at the same time reduce our
costs,” said Terry Bowles, IOC’s president and CEO since 2001
after Rio Tinto took over majority ownership of IOC in 2000.
“Now that we have made good progress on this, we are turning
our attention towards expansion.”
It all starts in the mine where IOC purchased
three new Komatsu 830E haul
trucks to add to its fleet of 16, which
allows IOC to mine some 50 million
tonnes of material each year. The trucks
dump ore into loading pockets where it is
fed into the automated electric train system
(known as the ATO) and hauled 10
kilometres to IOC’s processing facilities.
Over the last three years, IOC has
upgraded to a new digital control system
for the ATO, overhauled loading pockets,
and replaced much of the track.
Ore from the ATO is crushed and fed into
the concentrator, which produced 16.4 million
tonnes of iron ore concentrate in 2005.
IOC is improving the concentrator’s ability
to recover iron from its ores by replacing
eight spiral lines and upgrading the magnetite
and hematite recovery plants. All of
this will lead to higher concentrate production
over the next few years.
Most of this concentrate is fed into the pellet
plant where it is mixed with additives,
and fired in six big furnaces (or induration
machines) to produce iron ore pellets.IOC’s
record pellet production in 2005 has been
all the more remarkable as it was achieved
without significant investment to expand
the pellet plant. Improvements to operating
and maintenance practices have
increased equipment reliability and
throughput, allowing the pellet plant to
produce more pellets than ever before,and
almost one million tonne more than its
rated capacity of 12.5 million tonnes, with
essentially the same infrastructure.
The pellets and remaining concentrate are
transported to the port in Sept-Îles along
IOC’s 418-kilometre railway from where it
is shipped around the world through the
deep-water, year-round port. At any given time, there are six or
seven trains of up to 210 cars in length running on the railways,
which take around 50 hours to complete a round trip. These
trains transport merchandise, materials, and employees, and are
an essential link between Labrador City, Wabush, and Sept Îles.
IOC is currently commissioning seven new AC4400 locomotives,
which will improve efficiency by allowing longer trains (up to
240 cars) operate more reliably in the harsh winter conditions,
and require less maintenance.“This investment will considerably
increase IOC’s transport capacity and increase the profitability of
its production operations,” said Bowles.