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MEI Online: Plant Operation News: Africa: September 10th 2003


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:: Feasibility Study for EMD Plant

Mintek, South Africa's national minerals technology organisation, has initiated a feasibility study for a possible second electrolytic manganese dioxide (EMD) plant to be built in South Africa.

The study will be based on the production 20 000 tons of high-grade EMD per annum. The plant would probably be located at the Coega IDZ in the Eastern Cape, but other localities are also being considered based on the project economics.

Mintek's subsidiary Mindev (Pty) Ltd and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) are co-operating in the development and promotion of the project.

The exercise is being partly funded by a grant from the US Trade and Development Agency (TDA). The primary contractor is Nexant Inc, whose New York office will provide technical and management consulting services. Hazen Research, of Golden, Colorado, is responsible for establishing the basis for the study, evaluating the technology options, conceptual design and costing. In terms of the agreement with the TDA, Mintek will provide $50 000 of in-kind technical and marketing assistance. Grinaker LTA, acting as a subcontractor to Nexant, will undertake the preliminary environmental impact assessment and 'outside battery limits' requirements.

The study is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2004. If the outcome is positive, the (IDC) has expressed its interest in participating in the project. Mindev would also participate as a technology partner.

The world market for EMD is around 250 000 tons a year. About 95 per cent of production is used in the cathodes of dry-cell batteries, particularly the high-performance alkaline type - where it accounts for up to 30 per cent of the raw material costs. Global demand has grown annually by 5 per cent in recent years, and by 8 to 10 per cent, in some countries, for high-quality material with low impurity content, high surface area and battery activity. South Africa, which has more than 80 per cent of the world's land-based manganese resources, and is the third largest manganese ore producer, currently produces 22 000 tons of EMD annually.

In EMD production, manganese ore is leached to obtain a manganese sulphate solution, which is then purified. Manganese dioxide is deposited from the solution by electrolysis under carefully controlled conditions. After recovery, the product is washed, milled, neutralised, and subjected to further chemical treatment.

Alkaline-grade EMD has stringent specifications regarding impurity levels and structural, physical, and electrochemical properties. Mintek has developed considerable expertise in production technology for high-purity EMD, and is one of the few independent facilities that can offer EMD preparation and characterisation, as well as process development. Mintek is a member of the International Battery Association, and has carried out characterisation and consulting work for a number of local and overseas producers.




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