There are few greenfield platinum mines or expansions in Africa, with most of the existing large-scale mines on the continent having been in operation for more than a decade.
To ensure that the ageing mines continue to perform optimally, miners need to apply new technology to effectively enhance their overall process plants’ efficiency at the lowest cost of ownership and without incurring massive costs upfront, stresses vibrating equipment and solutions original-equipment manufacturer Kwatani CEO Kim Schoepflin.
“Our depth of experience in the field, combined with our substantial facilities and quality standards, equip us to custom-design and engineer fit-for-purpose screens that handle high tonnages reliably while efficiently performing to client demand.”
“For instance, on our large machines, we use tubular beams that are easier to protect, allowing for this arduous material to more easily pass through the screen. Further, we rubber-line all critical areas, thereby protecting the equipment’s surface from ore during the screening process.
Schoepflin says the company provides clients with enhanced equipment designed to fit into their existing infrastructure without being modified.
“When retrofitting old vibrating equipment with new technology, we focus on analysing the condition of the existing equipment and infrastructure, together with processing requirements, which typically change over time. This will help us offer a more effective and tailor-made solution to clients.”
She explains that, prior to designing equipment, Kwatani needs to know the restrictions and parameters, including the weight and dimensions of the vibrating equipment that needs to be replaced and its footprint relative to the surrounding infrastructure, as well as the available head room to manoeuvre the old machine out and the new unit into the building.
Meanwhile, the drive for larger vibrating screens to process larger tonnages places a high requirement on the machines’ technical specifications, such as robustness and durability, Schoepflin says.
“Mines are driving volume and it is critical that Kwatani equipment runs reliably and continuously, as any stoppage will affect mine production.”
Therefore, the company focuses on critical issues, such as the life span and structural integrity of the equipment during the development and design phase to ensure that it can withstand the large tonnages of 24/7 operations, she explains.
A vibrating screen may be sufficiently strong, but it can still wear away. However, Kwatani’s screen designs ensure that the mass of the screen is distributed correctly. This ensures that the vibrating screen runs symmetrically along the longitudinal axis. In this way, the material will be carried across the feed deck of the vibrating screen in a steady and even motion, providing effective screening, notes Schoepflin.
“The major benefit for clients is that downtime is reduced. The added benefit is that the screen can be designed for a specific application and can accommodate any existing footprint,” she enthuses.
Supply and Demand
Schoepflin notes that the platinum market has not developed to expectation for the past ten years because of sluggish demand from the global automotive industry, which uses the bulk of platinum-group metals in catalytic converters, and weak demand for platinum jewellery.
Moreover, the platinum price is influenced by the lack of demand in relation to supply. Compounding supply issues is the significant amount of platinum coming back into the industry through recycling.
Platinum mining, which involves labour-intensive operations, has faced labour unrest in South Africa, resulting in lower productivity that ultimately impacts on costs, Schoepflin concludes.