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MEI Online: Pyrometallurgy: Latest News: June 9th 2006


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:: Commercial Development of ConRoast Process in a New Independent Base Metals Refinery for Platinum Industry in South Africa

Mintek and Independence Platinum Limited (IPt) has announced that they had signed an agreement for the commercial development and exploitation of Mintek's ConRoast Process in a new independent smelter and base metals refinery for the processing of platinum concentrates in South Africa.

The ConRoast Process operates to remove sulphur from the metal sulphide concentrates by roasting, followed by smelting of dead-roasted concentrate in a DC arc furnace using an iron based alloy as a collector of platinum group metals, nickel, copper, cobalt and other base metals.

The ConRoast Process offers significant advantages in terms of environmental impact, health and safety.

Sulphur emissions are captured and removed from the enclosed roasting equipment in a continuous stream of sulphur dioxide gas of an appropriate strength as feed to a plant to produce sulphuric acid for use in downstream base metal leaching operations.

The ConRoast Process provides great flexibility for treatment of a range ore types and concentrate compositions without imposing limits on the minimum quantities of contained base metals or sulphur. It can tolerate high contents of chromite in concentrates characteristic of UG2 ores. UG2 ores are becoming increasingly important in the production of platinum group metals.

The ConRoast Process produces a metal alloy from the furnace which is water atomised prior to leaching.

Overall the ConRoast Process achieves very high metal recoveries and produces high purity metals and a clean high-grade concentrate of platinum group metals for precious metals refining.

The key terms of the ConRoast Technology Agreement include the following:

  • IPt will fund a US$15 million program of work over the next three years, including a definitive feasibility study, for the development and operation of a new independent smelter and base metals refinery in South Africa.
  • The program of work will determine and optimise operating parameters for a new independent base metals refinery with a capacity to process 360,000 tonnes of sulphide platinum concentrates per annum to extract up to 30,000 tonnes of nickel, 15,000 tonnes of copper and produce 1,000,000 ounces of platinum group metals in a high grade concentrate for subsequent precious metals refining.
  • IPt will have an exclusive world wide license to use the ConRoast Process in the processing of sulphide platinum concentrates to extract base metals and produce a high grade platinum concentrate for a period of 7 years after IPt makes a decision to proceed with the construction and commissioning of the new smelter and base metals refinery, subject to certain minor exclusions in favour of Mintek.
  • Mintek will receive license fees in the form of cash payments from the date of commencement of commissioning of the new smelter and base metals refinery, including additional fees on any up-grade in the capacity of the plant.
  • Mintek will have the right to license the ConRoast Process to other parties for the processing of sulphide platinum concentrates after the expiry of the exclusivity period for the platinum license of IPt.
  • IPt will also use Mintek facilities and technical services at standard commercial rates.
  • A project committee comprising four representatives of Mintek and IPt will be established to direct the program of work during the development period.
  • A strategic objective of the new independent base metals refinery is to provide roasting, smelting and base metal refining capacity for platinum concentrates from junior resource companies in South Africa, especially those in which historically disadvantaged South Africans have substantial shareholdings.
  • Provision has been made for HDSA participation on commercial terms commencing with an initial shareholding of 26% and increasing to up to 50% of the independent smelter and base metals refinery.

The Chairman of Independence Platinum, Mr Clayton Dodd, said that studies completed by IPt over the last 12 months indicated that there was a critical shortage in smelting and base metal refining capacity emerging in the platinum industry in South Africa.

IPt has also entered into an agreement to license proven Atomaer process technology for the leaching of base metals from metal alloy and matte.

"The combination of Mintek's ConRoast Process and Atomaer's Base Metals Process will lead to step down reductions in capital and operating costs in the processing of sulphide concentrates for the extraction of nickel, copper and other base metals and the production of a high grade platinum concentrate for precious metals refining" Mr Dodd said.

The new independent smelter and base metals refinery will be developed through a subsidiary of IPt in South Africa, namely Independence Base Metals Refiners (Pty) Ltd.




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