30 billion tons Coal fines deposits in top 10 coal producing countries 8 billion tons 2014 worldwide coal consumption 1 billion tons Annual generation of coal fines in top 10 coal producing countries
Coal fines or tailings are a wasteful by-product of the coal mining process that have a low market value, are generally expensive to dispose of, and are left in stockpiles or slurry ponds at or near mining sites. At present, vast amounts of coal discards lie in open-air lagoons as wasted by-products. It is estimated that over 30 billion metric tons of coal tailings are available in the top 10 coal producing countries.
As a result of continuous coal mining, these countries have accumulated abundant stockpiles of coal fines over the years. Processing, handling and transporting these tailings currently represents a substantial liability to the mining industry. The opportunity in the coal industry is underpinned by strong economic demand and market fundamentals, which support the need for new technologies to increase productivity of existing coal producers. With vast amounts of un-utilized coal fines, there is a potential to tap into and add back millions of metric tons of coal into the market every year.
Whilst the coal industry has seen its fair share of binders and pelletizing processes over the years, many attempts to convert coal fines and waste coal to usable briquettes have failed and success stories are limited.
In the past, binders often altered the characteristics of the coal (increasing ash or reducing the calorific value) and the coal could not withstand the rigors of transportation or long-term exposure to weather. Most importantly, the coal would lose their binding quality when heated at high temperatures or when in contact with moisture.