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:: Independence Platinum Starts Production at Mintek Smelter
Emerging company Independence Platinum has started continuous smelting activities at Mintek’s smelter in Johannesburg, and will tap the first platinum-group metal (PGM) alloy this week, its parent company, London-listed Braemore Resources, said on Tuesday.
South African State-owned minerals and metallurgy researcher Mintek and Independence Platinum Limited announced in August last year that they had signed an agreement for the commercial development and exploitation of Mintek’s ConRoast process.
“Braemore will join the ranks, albeit in a small way, of the exclusive club of PGM producers," MD Hamish Bohannan said in a statement.
The technology, to which Independence Platinum has global rights, is being touted as a smelting breakthrough, as it is believed to easily be able to cope with the normally vexing chrome content in UG2 PGM ore, as well as with the high nickel-bearing Platreef, on the northern limb of the Bushveld Complex.
The breakthrough, which Bohannan said earlier this year would be to platinum the equivalent of what LionOre’s Activox technology was to nickel, comes at a time of noted smelting and refining under capacity, accompanied by a large number of new platinum entrants.
The ConRoast process removes sulphur from the metal sulphide-concentrates by roasting, followed by smelting of dead-roasted concentrate in a dc arc furnace using an iron-based alloy as a collector of platinum-group metals, nickel, copper, cobalt and other base metals.
Braemore had secured over six months of feedstock for smelting at Mintek and was negotiating with various producers to secure an ongoing supply, the company said in a statement.
The feedstock material comprises revert tails (high chrome content slag from UG2 smelting operations at traditional ‘six-in-line’ smelters containing PGMs) and high-chrome UG2 concentrates from a variety of sources.
Mintek has already smelted over 30 000 t of material during the development of the ConRoast smelting process, at its facilities in Johannesburg, and Braemore has now taken a ten year option over these facilities to demonstrate commercialisation of the process.
Depending on the grade of the smelter feedstock processed, smelting by Braemore at Mintek is expected to produce about 30 000 oz of PGM product from smelting 12 000 t to 15 000 t of material a year.
Braemore also intends to double throughput capacity at the smelter early next year. Braemore also reported that a feasibility study into the establishment of a new 10-MW UG2 smelting facility on the western limb of the South African Bushveld Complex was expected to be completed by March 2008. Construction and commissioning of this dedicated ConRoast smelter would then occur by July 2009.
A second feasibility study on the first full-scale 35-MW ConRoast smelter was also on track and expected to be completed by late 2010, the group said.
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