JSE- and LSE-listed platinum group metals (PGMs) and chrome co-producer Tharisa reports that cold-commissioning of its R1-billion Vulcan ultra-fine chrome recovery and beneficiation plant has started and that the plant’s commissioning remains firmly on track, with initial saleable production due before the end of the year.
Vulcan is the first large-scale plant to produce chrome concentrates from chrome ultra-fines.
The concept of Vulcan was developed entirely by wholly-owned Tharisa subsidiary Arxo Metals, which houses Tharisa’s in-house research and development team, to extract the ultra-fine chrome from tailings.
Once fully commissioned, the Tharisa mine is expected to materially increase its chrome recoveries from 62% to 82%, resulting in increased chrome production of about 20% at low incremental-unit operating costs, driving Tharisa further down the cost curve.
The plant, which will process live tailings produced by the independent Voyager and Genesis plants, will ensure further beneficiation of Tharisa’s chrome production at the Tharisa mine, while reducing unit output of carbon emissions, aligned with the company’s recently announced decarbonisation plan.
As part of the cold commissioning process, Tharisa is conducting comprehensive testing of the entire circuit, prior to chrome tailings material entering the plant.
Of the total capital expenditure on the Vulcan project, over 90% was procured in South Africa, with up to 1 000 contractors locally sourced and over 100 new permanent jobs created.
Tharisa, in a statement, says that, with its Tharisa mine near Rustenburg having a 14-year remaining openpit life and a further 40 years underground, Vulcan will ensure better value extraction and beneficiation of the chrome ore.
The Tharisa mine has 860-million tonnes in mineral resources, containing 172-million tonnes in contained chromium (III) oxide and 42.8-million ounces of PGMs.
Internally funded by Tharisa, Vulcan recommenced construction in October 2020, after the lifting of restrictions by the South African government during the height of the first wave of Covid-19 infections.
Tharisa CEO Phoevos Pouroulis says the commissioning of the Vulcan plant “perfectly exemplifies” two Tharisa philosophies, the first being challenging convention through innovation, while the second is delivering on the company’s promise of increasing value through beneficiation of every cube mined.
“Vulcan provides [Tharisa] with the ability to further beneficiate our product whilst staying on track to meet our decarbonisation targets, thanks to the dedicated work from Arxo Metals, deliver[ing] further beneficiation opportunities, including metal alloys and PGM products using non-conventional methodologies.”
He adds that Vulcan is an important part of Tharisa’s sustainable growth strategy and ensures the company continues to drive sustainable returns for all its stakeholders.