South Africa’s Minister for Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu, has launched Mintek’s R44 million water atomising plant. The water plant is situated at Mintek’s Randburg campus, and will provide an effective means for the production of solid metal powder from six ton batches of molten metal.
The launch of this programme is coming at a critical time when the mining industry particularly the platinum sector is faced with crippling global market conditions and in turn the spate of labour unrest. Unveiling the new plant, Shabangu said the facility represents an on-going collaboration between Mintek and the platinum industry.
“What is encouraging with this initiative is the public-private partnership, as the department we have consistently said that beneficiation can never be government’s responsibility alone,” the minister said.
Shabangu said the technical collaboration was aimed at lowering the costs and environmental burden of the platinum sector and consequently represented one of the tangible areas where government was working with the industry to remove technical impediments and reduce risk in the sector.
“As the department we always strive towards working hand in hand with the mining sector in a joint effort to solve problems that may exist,” she said.
The atomiser plant was designed and built by MDM Engineering who sourced the atomisation technology from UK-based metals processing company Atomising Systems. Inside the atomiser, high pressure jets impinge on the molten stream to break it down into fine particles which can vary in size depending on the alloy and the pressure of the jets. The solidified particles are initially separated from the water by a magnetic separator followed by a dewatering screw. The final drying of the powder takes place in a rotary kiln.
According to Mintek, the new plant will initially be used for a two-year research and development project for Anglo American Platinum. Mintek’s pyrometallurgy division is well known internationally for its work in direct current arcing (dc arc) furnace technology. The technology is well established for use in the production of ferrochromium from chromite, and titania slag and pig iron from ilmenite.
Mintek is South Africa’s national mineral research organisation and one of the world’s leading technology organisations, specialising in mineral processing and extractive metallurgy amongst other things.