Mining company SepFluor’s R1.7-billion Nokeng fluorspar mine and plant at Rust de Winter, north east of Pretoria, was officially opened on August 1, as previously reported by Mining Weekly Online.
The new operation came on line as international markets for Nokeng’s two products – acid grade fluorspar and metallurgical grade fluorspar – dipped from highs in the first half of the year, while nonetheless remaining historically buoyant in a continuing supply squeeze.
China, the world’s largest fluorspar producer, cut production in response to tighter environmental regulation and as a result has moved from being a net exporter of fluorspar to a net importer.
The company entered fluorspar production as one of only three significant production newcomers over the last decade, as low pricing between 2011 and 2016 resulted in the closure of several high-cost operations internationally.
“Nokeng has 12-million tons of South African Code for the Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves-compliant reserves and an initial estimated life-of-mine of 19 years. It will initially exploit two haematite-fluorspar orebodies – Outwash Fan and Plattekop – with an option to later include Wiltin, a third and as-yet partially explored orebody.”
“The mine’s concentrator will produce around 180 000 t of acid grade fluorspar, 97% pure fluorspar and 30 000 t of metallurgical grade fluorspar annually from run-of-mine fluorspar ore production of 630 000 t,” it says.
Sepfluor adds that, openpit mining and modern plant efficiency are expected to put Nokeng in the bottom cost quartile internationally.
Much of Nokeng’s first year of production has already been sold, mostly into the US and European markets, with continuing strong demand from these markets and good prospects for additional sales into China and India.
The company is buoyed by the mention made by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe in his recent budget speech of an R850-million allocation for a minerals beneficiation programme and subsequent support for this by Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel in his budget speech.
At the time, Sepfluor CEO Rob Wagner noted that, “we are proud to be in the vanguard, efficiently beneficiating two products from the ore we mine, which is in demand internationally”.
He added that, owing to Nokeng’s being operational and supportive of government’s Fluorochemical Expansion Initiative (FEI), Sepfluor is now focused on securing finance for its fluorochemicals facility at Ekandustria, near Bronkhorstspruit and completing the definitive feasibility study to start construction of its second mine Walmansthal.
Further, he noted that Sepfluor foresaw the Ekandustria facility beneficiating acid grade fluorspar from Nokeng and Walmansthal to produce 60 000 t/y of hydrofluoric acid.
About 41 000 t/y will be used to produce 60 000 t/y of aluminium fluoride for local and export markets.
The excess hydrofluoric acid will be used in the manufacturing of a wide range of finished products.
Wagner also pointed to the company’s pride in the positive impact the operation has had on its host community and will continue to have in the future.
About 900 fixed-term jobs were created during construction and about 200 people will be employed permanently, most of whom will be locals.