Multinational mining and metallurgy company Eramet 2020 half-year results, released on July 29, noted that its Grande Côte Operation (GCO) built on the “excellent operating performance” of 2019, producing 371 000 t of mineral sands over the period.
Notably, GCO is the largest single dredge mineral sands operation in the world.
Over an expected mine life of at least 25 years, GCO will primarily produce high-quality zircon and ilmenite as well as small amounts of rutile and leucoxene.
The operations comprise a dredge, wet concentrator plant, mineral separation plant (MSP), rail and port facilities, as well as a power station.
The simplicity of the orebody allows for conventional dredging and processing. The dunes contain no overburden, minor vegetation, free flowing sands and minimal slimes, providing for an “uncomplicated” mining operation.
The dredge itself travels through the dunes and makes use of the area’s shallow water table. It mines sand from the front of the dredge pond and pumps slurry to the floating concentrator.
Sand is then washed through spirals, separating the heavy mineral concentrate from lighter quartz sand, which is sprayed out the back of the pond, restoring the landscape.
The heavy minerals are transferred to the MSP, where magnetic, electrostatic and gravity processes separate the heavy mineral concentrate into zircon, ilmenite, rutile and leucoxene.
None of the separating processes require chemicals.
The 36 MW power station located on site provides the security of uninterrupted power supply.
The mine benefits from its close proximity to Africa’s largest international shipping port in Dakar. After processing, zircon is shipped to customers worldwide by container, as with the rutile and leucoxene.
The ilmenite is shipped in bulk vessels and sold in the market and/or shipped for further processing at the TiZir Titanium & Iron (TTI) upgrading facility in Tyssedal, Norway.
TTI upgrades ilmenite to produce a high-value titanium slag, primarily sold to pigment producers, and a high-purity pig iron, which is sold to ductile iron foundries.
TiZir has made it a priority to control all its own logistical needs from the process plant to the ship hold. Eramet is highly fortunate in being able to leverage existing infrastructure, such as major rail and road links and the Dakar port facilities.
Rail & Port Facilities
By refurbishing the existing rail line and linking it to a new 22 km spur line, GCO benefits from controlled rail tracks from the treatment plant to the port of Dakar.
In the northern part of the Port of Dakar, GCO has constructed storage facilities complete with fixed and mobile conveyors as well as a mobile ship loader. GCO has also secured use of a berth for ship loading and all containers are shipped using the well-established container freight system of the Port of Dakar.
Eramet recorded substantial growth in mining activities, notwithstanding a significant decline in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation in the first half of 2020, owing to low prices and the current aerospace crisis, both of which resulted from the global pandemic.
“The Covid-19 health crisis has put our industries to the test, profoundly impacting our ecosystems,” said Eramet chairperson and CEO Christel Bories.
“Against this background, the company has strengthened its cash preservation measures and sped up the review of our asset portfolio,” she highlights
Bories also paid tribute to the “incredible commitment” of Eramet’s employees who have been responsive and resourceful in ensuring optimal business continuity, while complying with health protection protocols.
She concluded that the group must still overcome a highly volatile and uncertain market environment for all sectors of activity.