ARM Geometallurgy Research Chair launched at Stellenbosch University

17th October 2023 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

ARM Geometallurgy Research Chair launched at Stellenbosch University

Bjorn von der Heyden and Margreth Tadie

Stellenbosch University (SU) has partnered with mining company African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) to establish the ARM Geometallurgy Research Chair. 

The objective of the position is to advance knowledge and build capacity in geometallurgy, “thereby enhancing the resilience and environmental sensitivity of the local minerals industry”, says the university in a statement.

Worldwide and in Southern Africa the minerals sector is looking towards the emerging field of geometallurgy as a means of unlocking value and enhancing sustainability during ore extraction.

Geometallurgy includes disciplines such as rock mechanics, water use, energy use, mines’ carbon footprints, metal recovery, and mine closure and restoration.

“Geometallurgy is the integration of geological, mineralogical and metallurgical data in three-dimensional space to create a spatially aware processing model,” explains the university.

“Moreover, by incorporating economic, marketing, and environmental, societal and governance (ESG) considerations, these models seek to predict and maximise value addition during the mine life-cycle.”

Owing to the interdisciplinary nature of the research chair, it has been established as a shared position between Dr Bjorn von der Heyden from the Department of Earth Sciences, and Dr Margreth Tadie from the Department of Chemical Engineering. 

Von der Heyden’s field of specialisation is economic geology, geometallurgy and geochemistry, while Tadie’s includes mineral processing, geometallurgy, and process optimisation and modelling. 

Research capacity has also been increased with the appointment of two post-doctoral research fellows, Dr Cedric Djeutchou and Evelyn Manjengwa

The current student cohort comprises seven master’s students, all tackling various aspects of geometallurgy. 

Research projects include the geology and geomodelling of the Makganyene exploration project, as well as geometallurgical characterisation and modelling at the Black Rock mining complex.

Tadie notes that the aim is to produce students who are work-ready for the mining industry.

Von der Heyden says the students are performing well.

“Based on their ongoing research in the Northern Cape and Gauteng, they promise to make an impactful contribution to the science of how iron and manganese ores are formed, and how it can be extracted at maximum efficiency and value realisation, and at minimal environmental impact. 

“We are proud of their achievements to date, and grateful to ARM for sponsoring their studies.”

ARM Ferrous CE André Joubert says the mining group is “excited and honoured” that ARM is part of this collaboration effort with SU.

“Through this collaboration we aim to advance knowledge and strengthen the environmental sustainability of our industry.”

Noting that chemical and fuel giant Sasol had its origins at university research level, Joubert urges the geometallurgy students to, through their research, “change the way we do mining and to put South Africa on the map”.

He adds that ARM is also looking for “the brightest and smartest” to join its ranks once the students have wrapped up their studies.

Tadie says they are excited about what the chair has set out to achieve.

“This partnership with ARM is both visionary and timeous. 

“We are moving towards a world of big data, increasingly complex ore bodies, increased societal awareness and highly competitive business practice. 

“The minerals sector is responding to this by acknowledging the importance of geometallurgy. We look forward to contributing both knowledge and human capital development in this space.”