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:: Mintek Probes Platinum-Recycling Opportunities
South African State-owned metallurgical agency Mintek is currently evaluating the option of establishing a local platinum-group metals (PGM) recycling industry.
It is understood that the local autocatalyst industry generates about 250 t of reject material a year, out of a production of some 14-million units. Most of this material is recycled overseas.
Mintek, which released its annual report last week, was approached by the Catalytic Converter Interest Group to evaluate the setting up of a South African PGM recycling industry.
It is expected that a detailed feasibility study for the project, which is supported by the Innovation Fund, will be completed by mid-2005.
Meanwhile, Mintek CEO Dr Paul Jourdan said, at the launch of the group's annual report, that Mintek has completed a feasibility study of an independent PGM smelter using its dc arc-based ConRoast technology, which eliminates the constraints on the chromite level in the concentrate.
According to the study, an economically viable operation would need a capacity of at least 500 000 PGM ounces a year.
But further detailed work is needed to reduce the risks of commercial implementation.
Mintek is also planning an approach to establish producers and new entrants to the PGM sector, and a feasibility study could be launched, depending on the outcome of the interaction and the definition of a specific project on which to carry out the work.
Jourdan revealed that, during the current year, the agency will carry out a large toll-treatment campaign that will also serve to demonstrate the smelting steps of this process.
Thus far, Mintek has undertaken to process some 10 000 t of material - process stream bearing PGMs with elevated chromium levels - over the next 12 months.
The group has earlier demonstrated a flotation procedure that can produce a saleable PGM concentrate from chromite tailings. An updated prefeassibility study was conducted, based on a specific mine site, and the grade and recovery obtained in testwork confirmed that the project is potentially viable. A detailed feasibility study for an operation producing about 20 000 oz of platinum a year is expected to be completed soon.
Jourdan reported that several projects for which Mintek has undertaken large-scale testwork, in the past few years, have reached milestones in their development.
In March this year, commissioning was completed at Impala Platinum's 233 000 tons-a-month Marula PGM concentrator. This project is set to produce 100 000 oz of platinum in concentrate a year from 2006.
Cluff mining completed its feasibility study on the 3,98-million-ounce Blue Ridge PGM project, while Aquarius Platinum is finalising a bankable feasibility study on its Everset South project, with a view to starting production in 2005.
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