Despite South Africa being the largest contributor to the ferrochrome industry, the sector remains under immense pressure.
Speciality chemicals company, LANXESS, is one of the world’s biggest chrome ore suppliers for the chemical industry and the leading producer of chrome chemicals. The only company in South Africa that handles the entire value chain, LANXESS mines its chrome ore at its Rustenburg mine to further process at its plants in Newscastle and Merebank, in Kwazulu-Natal.
At the company’s Newcastle plant, the most modern chrome chemicals production facility in the world, the ore is processed into sodium dichromate and chromic acid. Sodium dichromate is shipped to another LANXESS’ plant in Merebank, near Durban, where final chrome chemical production takes place for use in the production of chrome tanning salts for the global leather tanning industry.
The mine supports LANXESS globally, shipping throughout South Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. Some 95% of South African production is exported.
South Africa’s mature chrome industry has a substantial socioeconomic effect on the country’s gross domestic product. In 2012, the sector contributed roughly 200 000 jobs and millions of rands to the country’s economy. But, while the mining industry continues to face considerable external pressures, LANXESS has opted to adopt a more optimistic response to the market.
“Chrome has such a range of applications and finds applications in just about every industry,” says LANXESS country representative for South Africa and MD Ben Marais.
With sales of €7.7-billion in 2016 and about 19 200 employees in 25 countries, the company is currently represented at 75 production sites worldwide. The core business of LANXESS is the development, manufacturing and marketing of chemical intermediates, additives, speciality chemicals and plastics. LANXESS is listed in the sustainability indices of the Dow Jones sustainability index and the FTSE4Good.