BANDUNG, itb.ac.id – Indonesia is well known to have abundance of natural resources and minerals. One of those natural resources is iron sand. The sand is spreaded over many regions such as the west coast of Sumatera, the south coast of Java, Maluku, and other regions.
According to Center for Geological Resources of Indonesia (PSDG), potential for iron sand reaches 2 billion tons (making 425 million of iron) and 173 million tons of reserve (making 25 million ton of iron). However, the exploitation is still far from its utmost because of several obstacles such as insufficient technology and the negative impact to environment.
Regarding that, members of Pyrometallurgical Laboratory at Faculty of Mining and Petroleum Engineering (FTTM) of Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) conducted innovative research on the exploitation of iron sand, entitled Production of Iron Nugget from Iron Sand Concentrate.
In 2009, the government issued Law No. 4/2009 concerning mineral and coal mining. The law prohibits export of raw mineral, including iron sand and obligates processing of raw mineral in order to enhance the value. This inspires a team led by Dr.-Ing. Zulfiadi Zulhan, ST., MT from Metallurgical Engineering Research Group to conduct a research.
“Because of that regulation, corporations are given a time to process their mining products. In 2013, a seminar was held in Jakarta to discuss corporations’ readiness toward the regulation. It was found that there is an obstacle on iron sand because the processing technology did not exist yet. I then made a research proposal, which was accepted as an initial research in the characterization of iron sand and how to reduce it,” Zulfiadi said.
The research is fully funded by Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education (Kemenristekdikti) and is assisted by students of Metallurgical Engineering. Until today, concentration process has been done to increase iron content more than 50% and titanium more than 8%.
The research was completed in lab scale in 2015 at Pyrometallurgy Laboratory of FTTM ITB to separate iron from iron sand concentrate so that the titanium content rises. The result of laboratory scale is as seen on the following picture using isothermal – temperature gradient method with temperature over 1400oC.
According to Zulfiadi, the research results in the ability of corporates to process mining products in Indonesia since up to this day the technology does not exist yet. Nonetheless, the potential damage to environment should be minimized. “Regional economy will be increased and developed, and that will bring many good benefits,” he said.
Currently, the team which consists of members from ITB, BK Mesin PII, BBLM of Kemenperin, R&D of Tekmira, Unjani, and other private parties compile it with other researches and bring it to the industry. The economic calculation of the project still need further study, especially if the titanium content can be extracted.