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VA Erzberg and EIT RawMaterials launch the Net-Zero Iron Ore Challenge

  • Researchers and startups are invited to apply for the first VA Erzberg Innovation Challenge.
  • VA Erzberg Net-Zero Iron Ore Challenge seeks solutions in Innovative Siderite Processing & Carbonate Valorization
  • Applications open until 29. September 2024

VA Erzberg, Europe’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, in collaboration with EIT RawMaterials, the leading raw materials innovation and knowledge network, launched the VA Erzberg Net-Zero Iron Ore Challenge – Innovative Siderite Processing & Carbonate Valorization. The initiative is an urgent call for startups, SMEs, research groups, universities and innovators to propose sustainable solutions for reducing CO2 emissions from carbonate iron ore processing.

The iron and steel industry is a cornerstone of the European economy, supporting 2.6 million jobs and contributing €132 billion annually[1]. As the European Union aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 and seeks to reduce its CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030, the urgent decarbonisation of the iron and steel sector is essential.

Regions like Austria, where VA Erzberg is located, have extensive mineral iron carbonate reserves. However, the traditional carbonate ore reduction process includes a calcination step, which impacts the steelmakers’ Scope 3 emissions.[2]

The Open Innovation Challenge underscores VA Erzberg’s dedication to pioneering strategic solutions that support the transition of Europe’s steel industry towards a net-zero future. Utilising locally produced iron ore will ensure a stable and sustainable ore supply, strengthen the local economy, and reduce emissions associated with transporting imported ore.

The challenge invites submissions from both commercial-ready solutions and early-stage innovations that focus on three areas:

Iron Ore Calcination and Reduction: Innovative eco-efficient methods for Erzberg’s iron ore calcination and reduction, improving efficiency and reducing emissions
CO2 Off-Gas Treatment: Advanced technologies to capture and utilise CO2 emissions during the processes
Byproduct Valorization: Innovative methods to valorise CO2 and other byproducts from Erzberg in the steel or other industries

Josef Pappenreiter, CEO of VA Erzberg says: “Our region in Austria has a rich history of iron ore mining. Finding sustainable solutions for utilising low-grade carbonate iron ore is urgent, not only for our operation but also for the future of the European steel industry. We look forward to collaborating with companies, startups, researchers, and entrepreneurs who share our vision for a sustainable future. We are looking forward to anticipating some exciting innovations they bring to the table.”

Bernd Schäfer, CEO and Managing Director, EIT RawMaterials: “It is the mandate of EIT RawMaterials’ to drive innovation and to support projects and partners that create impact on the decarbonisation of the raw materials sector. But it takes a global village and great industry leadership and collaboration to look beyond their own boundaries to solve solutions for the greater good – that is, to address the challenges of climate change. VA Erzberg Net-Zero Iron Ore Challenge presents a remarkable opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions within the steel industry, which accounts for around 2.8 gigatons of CO2 emissions per year, or 8% of global energy system emissions. We’re proud to support this initiative and invite all innovators to join this movement and be at the forefront of leading change.”

Applications are open until 29 September 2024. Ten candidates will be selected and invited to pitch their ideas at an online event in October. The top three candidates will present their solutions to VA Erzberg experts at the final event in Eisenerz, Austria in early December, where two winners will be selected.

The winners will gain insights into advanced mining operations and receive benefits such as paid proof-of-concept opportunities, funding support for further research, as well as networking and coaching opportunities.

To find out more and to apply for the challenge, click here.