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MEI Online: Pyrometallurgy: Latest News: March 9th 2005


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:: Shevchenko Ferronickel Smelting Campaign Under Way

Oriel Resources, Bateman Metals and Mintek are pleased to announce the start of the demonstration-scale smelting campaign on nickel ores from Shevchenko in Kazakhstan.

The campaign, which forms part of the ongoing Definitive Feasibility Study for the Shevchenko nickel project, follows the very successful small-scale testwork carried out at Mintek in June 2004, which provided the initial design data for the project pre-feasibility study.

Orielís chosen process route for the Shevchenko ore utilises specialist South African-developed DC arc smelting technology to produce ferronickel from calcined lateritic ore. Mintek operates the only demonstration-scale pilot smelting facility of this type in the world, and has successfully tested laterite ores for several major international clients. The Shevchenko campaign is the largest ferronickel demonstration campaign to be carried out in South Africa to date using Mintekís twin electrode DC arc furnace process.

During the demonstration, which will last up to 12 days, about 270 t of calcined Shevchenko ore will be smelted at power levels of up to 2 MW, using thermal coal from the Karaganda coal field in Kazakhstan as reductant. The smelting campaign is aimed at confirming process operating parameters such as smelting rate, energy consumption, alloy grade and nickel recovery, as well as providing detailed information for designing and constructing a commercial smelter in Kazakhstan.

The project provides an opportunity for South African contractors and financial institutions to supply equipment, engineering and related services to the proposed mine and plant in Kazakhstan as it moves into the construction stage.

A delegation representing equity investors and financial institutions from the UK, Canada, Germany and Kazakhstan is in South Africa to attend the demonstration.

Bateman is acting as lead engineer in the preparation of the Definitive Feasibility Study on the project, with specific responsibility for all basic engineering and design for the smelting process.and infrastructure, capital and operating cost estimates, economic modelling, risk assessment, and management, and project execution and scheduling. Bateman is supported by Mintek (process testwork, modelling and flowsheet design), Polysius, part of the ThyssenKrupp Group, Germany (milling, drying and calcining testwork and capital and operating costs), and Wardell Armstrong International, UK (ore reserves, mine schedules, and geotechnical and environmental studies).

The Definitive Feasibility Study will be completed during the third quarter of 2005. Subject to a positive outcome, Bateman will undertake construction on a lump-sum turnkey basis. The ThyssenKrupp Group, in addition to being involved in equipment supply, has agreed to take up to 100 per cent of the ferronickel production.

Shevchenko, located in the Zhetigara region of Kustanai Oblast, Northern Kazakhstan, contains an independently confirmed JORC-classified resource of some 46 Mt at 1.01 per cent nickel. The project is located in an existing mining area with a well established road, rail and power network.

The pre-feasibility study, completed in the third quarter of 2004, is based on a project producing 140 000 t of ferronickel grading over 22 per cent nickel from year five of production with 31 000 t contained nickel. Operating cash costs were estimated at US$1.53 per pound of nickel over the life of the project, which would place Shevchenko among the world's lowest cost ferronickel producers. With the strong heavy engineering capabilities and good infrastructure in the region, Oriel anticipates that production could start by early 2007.

The process route selected considers the initial construction of two 80 MW DC arc furnaces, followed by a third furnace in year three of operations. Nickel recoveries are expected to be 92 per cent into a ferronickel product grading over 22 per cent nickel.

The benefits of the DC arc process for the Schevchenko project include significantly lower capital costs due to improved flowsheet design, and lower operating costs as a result of the direct use of calcined nickel ore fines without prior agglomeration.

Mintek has developed DC arc smelting technology for several projects in South Africa and elsewhere over the past twenty years. Industrial applications include chromite and ilmenite smelting, nickel and cobalt recovery from furnace and converter slags, and the production of a chromium-containing ferronickel master alloy for stainless steel production. Several large-scale smelting campaigns have also been successfully conducted on calcined nickel laterite fines, as well as nickel sulphide concentrates.

Oriel Resources plc is a London-based junior mining company focusing on nickel and gold projects in the countries of the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Oriel, through its subsidiary Muzbel LLP, holds 90 per cent of the Schevchenko nickel project.

The company also holds 100 per cent of the Voskod advanced-stage chromite project in Kazakhstan, as well as interests in gold projects in the Far East, Kyrgystan, and Kazakhstan. Oriel is listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange and on the Toronto Stock Exchange.




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