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Construction of Anglo American Platinum’s SO2 abatement project at its Polokwane smelter got underway with a sod-turning ceremony held on Thursday.

The company will implement new wet sulphuric acid (WSA) technology at the smelter, which the company predicts will ultimately reduce SO2 emissions by an estimated 96% in order to deliver the targeted abatement levels at the smelter. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

The capital value of the abatement project at the Polokwane smelter is R1.57 billion and will create around 500 construction jobs, give contract work to between 12 and14 companies and award full-time jobs to 30 people.

The company started developing technical solutions for SO2 abatement at its Polokwane smelter in 2010 to deliver the targeted abatement at the smelter. This is in line with the implementation of the New Minimum Emissions Standards for SO2 by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The WSA process captures SO2 gas from the furnace and converts it to sulphuric acid. This marks the first time WSA technology will be used in Platinum Group Metals (PGM) electric arc furnace to produce high strength acid.

This technology was selected from 40 different technologies due to its suitability to treat gas with the level of concentration at the smelter to yield a saleable product.

Anglo American Platinum CEO Chris Griffith said:

“We strive to continue minimising environmental impacts through innovative approaches as we recognise the value and scarcity of our country’s natural resources, and this technology will ensure that the operations meet both the Group’s air quality standard goals, as well international best practice standards.

“Limiting emissions has been a significant area of focus. We are working together in a broad-based partnership with the industry, government, civil society and host communities to purposefully address the environmental challenges to secure a sustainable future for all and maintain a healthy environment.”

The company has had an excellent environmental compliance record, reporting no significant environmental (level 3-5) incidents since 2013.