The world’s first commercial plant using Kobe Steel’s ITmk3® process began production of iron nuggets. The Hoyt Lakes, Minn., facility was built by Kobe Steel and Steel Dynamics Inc. (SDI). Annual production is expected to reach 500,000 metric tons in mid-2010. SDI plans to use the nuggets in its steel mills. The ITmk3 iron-making process enables mining companies to produce iron nuggets to expand their markets to include electric-arc furnace steelmakers.

The ITmk3 process begins when pulverized iron ore and pulverized coal are agglomerated into ball-shaped pellets. The pellets are then fed into a rotary-hearth furnace, where reduction, melting and slag separation occur in about 10 minutes. The resulting product is high-grade iron nuggets.