International diversified resources company, Astra Resources Plc (FWB Code: 9AR), has reconfirmed its commitment to pursuing industry innovations to spearhead its global expansion plans.
The company has already acquired, and is in the process of acquiring, several ‘industry changing’ technologies, including the revolutionary T-Steel, coal conversion and carbon capture and sequestration projects amongst others, which it sees will help drive the advancement of developing countries.
Astra CEO Dr Jaydeep Biswas says it will be technology rather than fixed assets which will determine competition and products into the future.
“If you look at the major countries around the world it’s only Russia and Brazil that both produce their own minerals and consume them on a major scale,” Dr Biswas says.
“Russia is a major producer of most commodities, and almost all of their production is consumed domestically or purchased by central government banks as stockpiles.
“However both China and India are still importing coal and iron ore to fuel their exponentially increasing appetite for steel, and anything that can revolutionize this scenario will result in industry changing outcomes.”
Iron ore imports into China from Australian alone hit 64 million tonnes in December.
India is a massive coal producer in its own right, but still requires high quality coking and thermal coal which it imports.
Dr Biswas says while China and India may have large resource reserves, their poor quality means large quantities of coal and iron ore still need to be bought offshore.
“Ironically Australia and South Africa have huge resource reserves but export much of it due to low local consumption levels,” Dr Biswas says.
“This business model of high resource, low consumption countries like Australia continuing to supply China and India may become partially out-dated in time, and it’s not just due to the increasing costs of logistics.
“The real challenge is to provide the appropriate technologies to allow these emerging nations to use their own resources to produce their own high quality products such as steel.
“Astra is now in a position to not only provide these technologies, but also facilitate the required resources from closer supply points and in turn minimise their need to rely on long-distance imports.”
Astra’s Managing Director Silvana De Cianni says the company’s strategy is to align its technologies for steel and coal conversion so they can be used in major consumption countries like China and India.
“Our company model is based on cost efficiency, initially in producing stronger steel requiring fewer raw materials for the same use, and cost efficiency in coal conversion technology to allow use of local low quality coal deposits for energy generation in developing countries,” Ms De Cianni says.
“We are also committed to mineral development projects in low cost populated countries such as the Philippines where demand is low but their close proximity to major markets reduces logistics costs.
“Underpinning this policy is our hedging strategy against the dollar through our interests in gold, which all provide a very unique and diversified business model for long term growth.”
China’s crude steel production has risen from 1,351 million tonnes in 2007 to 1,490 million tonnes in 2011 and shows no signs of abating, providing the perfect platform for Astra to use its T-Steel technology.
Some of the benefits of the revolutionary T-Steel technology compared to most high-strength low-alloy steels include up to 30 per cent lower emissions, improved hardness, tensile strength and malleability, fewer raw materials required, and higher elongation.
Dr Biswas says it can replace other steels in any application, has a longer fatigue life and provides for higher profitability.
“T-Steel is significantly stronger than regular steel and provides vast production, operational and environmental benefits,” Dr Biswas says.
“Stronger steel means less steel needs to be produced and technology to convert local low quality coal for power means less imports, hence much lower operating costs.
“If countries such as China and India adopt our technologies along with using their own resources, it will have a significant effect on the current business model.”
Dr Biswas says in line with Astra’s model to make the industry work more cost efficiently, another benefit of T-Steel technology is to make it possible for older factories to manufacture T-Steel products economically.
“One of the most important factors in the implementation of the T-Steel technology is that factories that cannot afford multi-billion dollar investments in new equipment are able to manufacture high quality steels using existing factory infrastructure with relatively minor capital investment,” Dr Biswas says.
“Therefore average factories can enter markets where they can sell a premium category of steel and in turn increase their sales revenue.
“There is also a growing demand in international markets for higher quality and more expensive commodities, as recently evidenced by India’s pursuit of coking and thermal coal from Australia, to produce superior products.
“If we are able to provide the means for them to achieve the desired level of quality by using their own lower quality resources, then we have achieved something different from the current business model.”
Astra Resources’ global portfolio includes gold interests in Southeast Asia, coal mines in Africa, iron ore in India, Norway and the Philippines, carbon efficient businesses, the production of the high-strength T-Steel technology in Hungary and the provision of mining services housing in Rockhampton, Queensland.