Smelting of difficult laterite ores
The favourable physicomechanical characteristics of nickel have resulted in its wide application in various products, around 2m t year2-1. Nickel is an essential alloying element in austenitic stainless steel and other speciality alloys. The drastic increase in production of such alloys over the last decade, mostly because of economical growth of Asian countries, particularly China, has resulted in a considerably increased demand for ferronickel. To fulfil such an expanding industrial demand, newer and more efficient routes for extraction of nickel from poorer and more difficult ores are required. The current paper summarises years of experience in designing, operating, and optimising ferronickel smelters, and describes how this knowledge can be used to develop the mitigation measures necessary to address some of the foreseeable smelting challenges associated with metal extraction from low-grade and previously undesirable laterite ores.