platinum implats
The smelter opening and launch of the second furnace at the group's metallurgical complex marks a major milestone in Northam's strategic growth initiative.

Northam Platinum chief executive Paul Dunne has hosted a senior delegation from Heraeus Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG and Heraeus South Africa at the opening of the smelter complex expansion at the group’s Zondereinde mine near Thabazimbi in the Limpopo province.

The smelter opening and launch of the second furnace at the group’s metallurgical complex marks a major milestone in Northam’s strategic growth initiatives, and underpins the renewal of the companies’ long-term strategic partnership.

In terms of an agreement struck in October 2015, Heraeus contributed an amount of €20 million to the Northam smelter expansion programme, and the parties committed to the following:

  • an extension of the their existing 30-year partnership;
  • Heraeus to continue to refine Northam’s PGM concentrates at competitive terms; and
  • Northam undertakes to make up to 40% of its refined precious metals available for sale to Heraeus.

“We are celebrating the fruits of a mutually beneficial, long-standing business partnership between our companies. For Northam, the addition of a second furnace at Zondereinde is a critical element of our group’s strategic growth in that it:

  • supports the expansion programme at Booysendal;
  • has the flexibility to handle and process the higher volumes from Zondereinde;
  • immediately raises the group’s processing capacity to more than 1 million PGM ounces; and
  • significantly reduces our operational risk,” states Dunne.

The new 20 MW furnace will provide the additional capacity required to treat the growing volumes from Zondereinde, Booysendal and those of Eland when it starts producing.

It has been designed to be used as a pure UG2 furnace to accommodate the higher UG2 ore percentages or as a conventional Merensky/UG2 furnace.

The new furnace incorporates a number of advances in the area of PGM smelting.

These include extended refractory lining life expectancy, metal containment and cooling, along with best practice in terms of monitoring, tapping and furnace control functions.

“As Heraeus Precious Metals grows and innovates the precious metals industry, we want to partner with companies that share that same ambition,” comments Heraeus Precious Metals president, André Christl.

“Northam Platinum has demonstrated that for the past 30 years, and we’re delighted this new smelter puts our partnership on the path to a 50-year golden anniversary in 2038.”

Feature image credit: Northam