JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Innovative metals and energy company Thakadu Battery Materials has secured a R50-million black industrialist grant from South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for the construction of its pure nickel sulphate plant in North West province, which will make use of platinum producer Lonmin’s crude nickel sulphate stream.
Lonmin has agreed to supply its crude nickel sulphate stream to Thakadu for beneficiation into high-purity battery-grade nickel sulphate at a proposed R250-million purification plant to be constructed at Lonmin’s base metals refinery.
Thakadu said in a release to Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online on Tuesday that commercial production is set for the first half of 2019 from a plant that is expected to create 60 permanent jobs and 200 employment opportunities during construction.
“We look forward to advancing beneficiation, job creation and technology localisation,” said Thakadu CEO Ruli Diseko, 34, a Soweto-born former DTI economic analyst, who has a BCom from the University of Cape Town (UCT), a postgraduate diploma in business administration from the Gordon Institute of Business Science and an MBA from UCT.
Concluding of definitive agreements for debt funding are said to be imminent.
Detail design has reportedly advanced significantly, with the next steps including the invitation of final tenders and procuring of long-lead items.
The timing of the project’s execution is said to be particularly fortuitous in the light of battery companies increasing loadings of battery-grade nickel sulphate in nickel cobalt aluminium oxide NCA and nickel manganese cobalt oxide NMC technologies.
Although the plant is being designed to produce 25 000 t of high-purity battery-grade nickel sulphate a year, its installed capacity of 31 000 t offers leeway for increased utilisation and the upliftment of the project’s net present value.
Cobalt hydroxide and a relatively pure sodium sulphate are two other saleable co-streams also earmarked.
The steady supply of unprocessed sulphate would otherwise be sold as an impure product at correspondingly lower prices.
Initial indications are that the plant will generate a yearly pretax internal rate of return of 47.3% over its operating life.
Thakadu has negotiated strategic partnership agreements for offtake that underpin the project’s viability.
The plant will be the first commercial-scale battery-grade nickel sulphate operation in the country, Mining Weekly reported in November 2016.
Thakadu has an estimated R200-million worth of assets under its control and is a metals and energy beneficiation company and trader in nickel, chrome and coal.
The company looks for opportunities to build and operate beneficiation plants that produce higher-value products, and then to trade these products globally.
Diseko cites as his best personal achievement the funding of his younger sister's studies at Fudan University, in Shanghai, China, and credits Lonmin CEO Ben Magara as the person who has had the biggest influence on his career.
The father of two regards as his biggest ever opportunity the managing of a $200-million metals portfolio for a listed mining company at the age of 26.