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MEI Online: Plant Operation News: Africa: January 12th 2010


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:: Blue Ridge Platinum Concentrator Handed Over

The Blue Ridge Platinum Concentrator Project in South Africa was handed over to the client in August 2009, operating at full capacity and processing 115 kilo t/month of UG2 ore from the nearby Blue Ridge Platinum mine. Between 27 and 32 tons of platinum concentrate are trucked daily for refining by Impala Platinum in an off-take agreement.

Awarded in May 2007, the US$59 million lump sum turnkey project covered the engineering design, procurement and management of all construction activities and cold commissioning to a level at which the concentrator can receive ore. The concentrator is located near Groblersdal, in Mpumalanga, South Africa and was owned by Blue Ridge Platinum (Pty) Ltd and subsequently sold to the Aquarius South Africa group.

Blue Ridge mine, a recently-developed mine by the client, has resources totalling 5.34 million ounces of platinum group metals (PGMs) and plans to produce 149,000 ounces of six platinum group metals a year for 18 years. This comprises 75,000 oz of platinum, 35,000 oz palladium, 13,000 oz rhodium, 1,500 oz gold, 22,000 oz ruthenium and 2,500 oz iridium.

The award of the project followed a pre-feasibility and full feasibility study for the plant, both carried out by Bateman Engineering. The flow sheet designed by Bateman Engineering closely resembles standard UG2 flow sheets developed in the early 1990s, being a well proven technological solution to restrict the problematic chromatite in the concentrate. The milling and flotation arrangement, jointly designed by Blue Ridge Platinum and Bateman Engineering, is a typical MF2 circuit, in which the mills are coupled with flotation cells.

The project made use of Asian-sourced engineering services and procurement to curtail the high inflationary capital costs for projects prevalent at the time, without compromising the functionality and quality of the operational plant. It also allowed for shorter lead times for some of the larger items of capital equipment, such as the mills which, manufactured in China, took 74 weeks from the date of order, to complete installation. This is remarkable in comparison with the 20 to 24 month lead time typical of other vendors.

In the flowsheet, ore is delivered to the concentrator plant via a series of underground conveyors, fed onto an open stockpile then crushed using a jaw crusher.

The crushed ore is delivered to a mill feed silo and then into the primary mill where it undergoes coarse grinding in a closed circuit with a screen. The fine product from the screen feeds the primary rougher, cleaner, recleaner flotation circuit collecting the concentrate for filtration and shipping to a toll facility. The primary flotation tailings are dewatered, classified using hydrocyclones then fed to a secondary mill to achieve a fine grind. The mill product feeds the secondary flotation circuit where the concentrate is jointly filtered with the primary concentrate ready for shipment and the tailings are discarded.

The primary and secondary ball mills were supplied by Bateman Engineered Technologies, the equipment supply division of Bateman Engineering, through its agreement with CITIC Heavy Industries Machinery Company Ltd (CITIC) of China. The mills process 115,000 t/month of PGM ore.

Prior to shipping to South Africa, the mills were dry commissioned at CITICís production facility in China, where the mills were fabricated. The mills were shipped from Shanghai in China to Durban in South Africa on a bulk break basis as the size of the mills prohibited containerisation. This meant that the mills, apart from some critical components which were containerised, were exposed to the elements, requiring special attention during transport.

The primary and secondary flotation circuits were also supplied by Bateman Engineered Technologies and comprise Bateman BQR Flotation Cells. The primary circuit consists of seven Bateman BQR300 Flotation Cells for roughing and eight Bateman BQR100 Flotation Cells for cleaning and re-cleaning. The secondary circuit is made up of eight Bateman BQR500 Flotation Cells for roughing and 11 Bateman BQR100 Flotation Cells for cleaning and recleaning.

The thickeners were sourced from Delkor India which is now part of Bateman Engineered Technologies following the acquisition of Delkor Global in 2008. The thickeners are 16 m diameter for the tailings thickener and 5 m diameter in size for the concentrate thickener, both being high-rate thickeners.

Construction of the concentrator commenced in September 2007, with Bateman Engineering Projects (the project management arm of Bateman Engineering) responsible for the construction management of the concentrator as well as of the associated plant infrastructure including the roads, office block, change houses, workshop and laboratory. The construction force peaked at over 500, with the majority of the labour force sourced from the local population, which proved very beneficial to the region where employment levels are low due to the lack of industry.




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