A bankable feasibility study has been completed on a new platinum processing method that slashes electricity consumption by eliminating the power-guzzling smelting step in the processing of platinum-group metals (PGMs), Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) divisional executive: mining and metals industries Abel Malinga enthused last week.
He told Mining Weekly in a video interview that the process removed the need to smelt PGM concentrate at a high temperature and consumed considerably less electricity for every tonne of concentrate processed.
The hydrometallurgical processing route taken also copes well with the chromite in the upper group two reef, which smelting finds problematic.
It is also poised to take cutoff grades far lower, which will, in turn, extend mine life.
The IDC is going all out to support technologies that will enable South Africa to beneficiate far more effectively, but, more importantly, in a manner that is environment friendly.
The second low-energy technology being promoted uses fines to produce what is being referred to as SupaScrap, a material used to relieve the acute shortage of high-quality ferrous scrap metal.
Securing sufficient scrap metal of the correct quality to ensure the efficient and sustainable operation of numerous electric arc furnaces has been problematic for some time.
Malinga explained that the new consistent and cheaper material was poised not only to solve that problem, but also to lower the cost of steelmaking in South Africa.
On the ferrochrome front, he revealed that the IDC was working with a company that makes use of offgas to preheat the chrome ahead of its furnace entry, which results in between 25% and 45% less energy being used.
The overall outcome of these initiatives is to improve South Africa's competitiveness.
“We need to be competitive as a country,” said Malinga, who emphasised that the introduction of new technologies in hard-rock gold and platinum mining was also becoming essential and that jobs need not be lost in that jobs no longer created in mines would be created in the factories that would be manufacturing the equipment needed to ensure that deep-level mining continued.