IG warns on liquefaction of iron ore fines from Sierra Leone

The International Group has informed all clubs in a circular that that some cargoes of iron ore fines intended for shipment from the port of Pepel, Sierra Leone, have been stockpiled outdoors uncovered for a prolonged period, thus posing a particular risk of liquefaction during the wet season, according to information supplied to IG.

Some cargoes intended for shipment from Pepel were understood to have previously been considered too low grade for export and to have been left in uncovered stockpiles for prolonged periods. They were now being blended with higher grade materials for export.

Members were warned that iron ore fines shipped from Pepel with a high moisture content might liquefy. When the moisture content rose above 14% the risk of liquefaction was very high. Typically, iron ore fines from the region were displaying moisture contents of between 13% and 16% during the wet season.

IG warned that it was normal for the upper surfaces of any stockpiled material to appear relatively dry during the dry season period, but wet at increasing depths throughout the stockpiled material. It was therefore important that shippers “carefully monitor, identify and separate those materials that require stockpiling and draining from those materials that are safe to ship”.

IG warned that anomalies and inconsistencies had been seen in declarations and test certificates provided by shippers for iron ore fines cargoes loaded for shipment from Pepel. “That would suggest that some shippers are not adequately assessing or understanding the safety characteristics of the material intended for loading”, IG said.

Check tests run by means of the can test on such materials might also provide misleading results if not correctly interpreted. Members were reminded that the presence, or not, of surface water in the can should not be relied upon as a sole basis for acceptance of any such cargo for loading.

IG said that it was essential therefore that Group Club Members loading iron ore fine cargoes from Pepel, Sierra Leone obtain current, valid and accurate information from the shipper on the physical and chemical properties of the cargo presented for shipment.

It was noted that it was the shipper’s responsibility to ensure that the requirements and procedures for testing and analyzing the moisture content and transportable moisture limit of cargoes which might liquefy were complied with.

Early identification of any documentary discrepancies or concerns was key to providing a timely resolution before loading and therefore minimizing delays.  Members were told to ensure that they received the shipper’s declaration and test certificates well in advance of loading in order to address any issues in good time. 

Members were also advised that liquefaction of mineral ore cargoes continued to be a major concern across other exporting jurisdictions.