Avantor advances laboratory services in Southern Africa

20th March 2023

By: Simone Liedtke

Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer


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As South Africa’s mining industry continues to grow, mining laboratories are relied upon to provide high-quality testing, inspection and certification services that adhere to internationally recognised standards and customer-specific methodologies.

Fortune 500 company Avantor is therefore entering the South African market with the aim of establishing itself as a trustworthy and reliable partner to South African mining houses, which it aims to do through supporting some of the leading laboratories in Africa.

Many of these laboratories are present in South Africa, says Avantor global mining VP and GM Didier Vilain and Avantor sub-Saharan Africa regional sales manager Victor Menezes, who add that the company is looking to increase its support by bringing its products closer to the market to deliver on-time and in-full to customers.

“We are already working with customers to ensure that our wide product portfolio, deep expertise, and global footprint optimize their outcomes. This includes addressing persistent challenges they continue to face in the sector, such as long turnaround times or inconsistencies of test results on rock samples,” they comment.

This decision is a customer-centric expansion strategy that is premised on understanding the needs of their customers in their respective geographies, which Vilain and Menezes say allows the company to ensure that it brings the most relevant products and innovations.

In the case of South Africa, this entails bringing solutions and dedicated team members closer to end-user customers.

“Our contribution is directly related to the mission-critical products and services that we provide to mining laboratories, a critical stakeholder group within the sector. Analytical laboratories are key for a robust mining sector, as they support all the phases of mining operations, right from the exploration phase with chemical and mineralogical analysis for the estimation of reserves, to the production phase for the optimization of the ore extraction operations. They are also key for optimization and monitoring of the ore processing and refining and even for the post-closure rehabilitation of mining sites,” Vilain and Menezes explain.

Avantor provides all laboratory consumables, equipment, instruments, furniture and chemicals to operate full mining laboratories, including sample preparation, fire assay, analytical chemistry or metallurgical testing.

“We also leverage our global team to advise our customers on how to set up a new mining lab, build their capacity, and optimize their design to offer efficient and ergonomically safe workflows for the lab personnel.”

Moreover, since the acquisition of international life science product supplier VWR by Avantor in 2017, the company has focused on growth initiatives that include expansion across the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions.

“Through our presence in South Africa, Avantor is better positioned to play a key role in supporting Africa develop its mining industry through our capability and services in this important growing sector,” Vilain and Menezes note.

South African Market

Specific to the South African market, Avantor’s advanced technologies assist gold and platinum mines’ laboratories in effectively extracting the minerals from the mined rock.

In its fire assay product portfolio, the focus in South Africa includes flux, cupels, crucibles, certified reference materials and chemicals. These are essential products used in every fire assay lab, predominantly in gold and platinum mining.

“Our products' high quality and timely delivery guarantee high levels of consistency in test results, which helps to enhance the efficiency and productivity of the laboratories we serve. In line with this, we secure third-party quality certification for each of the batches of flux that we manufacture,” Vilain and Menezes say.

“We also contribute to the sector through best-in-class protective gear for use in the high-temperature environments where mining laboratory scientists often work. These include gold reflective face shields, high-temperature gloves, respirators and safety goggles. All these products are available locally, allowing for timely product delivery and testing.”

Fire assay analysis has been around for hundreds of years, and is considered the most reliable method for accurately determining the content of gold, silver, and platinum-group metals in ores or concentrates.

Additionally, considering that platinum, coal and gold are South Africa’s three most significant mining exports, Vilain and Menezes explain that fire assay methods and other technologies used by mining laboratories are “undoubtedly vital ingredients for the overall success of the mining sector”.

Avantor’s world-renowned ISO-accredited flux, and certified reference materials, chemicals and other products assist in achieving the most consistent and accurate test results with higher levels of efficacy and reliability. This benefits mines in their production of precious metals, which in turn helps the mining industry realize greater returns while stimulating a crucial economic segment of the economy.

This process involves melting a gold-bearing sample in a clay crucible with a mixture of fluxes, lead oxide, and a reducing agent such as flour. Avantor has earned a place as the largest global manufacturer and supplier of consistent and premium quality fire assay fluxes used within the global mining and geochemical assay laboratory market.

New analytical instruments, such as XRF, AA and ICP-MS/OES, have since been developed over the years, and Avantor manufactures high-grade chemicals and consumables to support their workflows.

Avantor provides one-stop shopping for mining labs, from lab supplies such as chemicals and fire assay consumables, to equipment, such as sample preparation machines, furnaces and weighing instruments.

“Our business model ensures timely and affordable availability of these products within South Africa, eliminating the need for our customers to import the products themselves and deal with logistical complexities,” Vilain and Menezes conclude.

Edited by David Shepherd
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