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|Metallurgically, the term agglomeration is used to describe processes whose goal is to form balls, briquettes, nodules, flakes, or other sized shaped particles from loose, usually fine, incoherent particles. In practice it includes such varying processes as the briquetting of coal dust and other substances, the balling and induration (heating) of such nonmetallics as cement, fluorspar, lightweight aggregates, etc. It includes such widely used processes as the sintering of nonferrous concentrates, such as those copper, lead, zinc, etc. The agglomeration of specific nonferrous metal concentrates is discussed in detail in the section of this handbook devoted to that particular metal. Agglomeration processes are of particular value to the iron and steel industry where the nature of the primary reduction process, the blast furnace, requires for best results a burden essentially free of fines. This is a change that has taken place since about 1960. Prior to that time many fine unsized ores were fed to the furnace. The development of the pelletizing process gave to the industry a chemically controlled closely sized product that increased the produc¬tion rate and reduced the costs so much that unsized fines are seldom used in modem furnaces. Steel plants produce many fine sized waste products such as fine dust (fine ore coke and gangue) and mill scale. These products, which have a valuable iron content, are usually sin¬tered directly at the plant for reuse. Fine sized ore concentrates are usually pelletized at the mine and shipped as pellets to the steel plant. Common practice in some areas producing natural high grade ores is to screen the ore at the mine to about 3/8 in. The oversize is shipped "as is" and constitutes blast furnace feed. The / in. may be shipped to the steel plant where it may be sintered or otherwise agglomerated. At some mines the fines may be pelletizied prior to shipment. With the development of large ocean ore carriers, and with the transportation of slurried concentrates or fines, a trend has developed of constructing large pelletizing plants or other types of agglomeration plants near large consumption centers (i.e., in the Netherlands or Japan) where ores of many types are brought together, ground if necessary, blended, and agglomerated. As an indication of tonnages of agglomerated materials produced, for iron materials alone (the largest share of the total) production in 1970 in the U.S. was Million gross ton Sinter 40.7 Pellets 43.1 Briquettes, nodules, & others 0.1 Total 83.9 During the 1960s, U.S. production of sinter rose from 40.3 million gross tons in 1961 to a high of 48.7 million in 1964, then settled back to almost the 1961 figure in 1970. Pellet production rose steadily from 14.4 million gross tons in 1961 to the 59.9 figure for 1975. Worldwide, sinter production in 1966 was estimated at 340 million mt (mainly in Europe, Russia, Japan, and the U.S.) and pellet produc¬tion the same year at 64 mt (primarily Canada and the U.S.). World pellet production capacity rose to 200 million tons in 1976.|