Demonstrating its long-term commitment to the South African platinum industry, Northam is expanding its smelter facilities in Thabazimbi, South Africa to support its planned growth in platinum group metals (PGM) production.
The expansion called for an innovative approach to increasing the group’s processing and refining capability using a technical solution that offers the flexibility to process both high and low base metal concentrates.
Northam Platinum is looking to increase its output by increasing the throughput of UG2 ore, rich in chromite and difficult to smelt, from the Eastern Limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Complex.
The basic engineering for the 20 MW PGM smelting furnace and ancillary systems has been completed, and the detail engineering is currently in progress.
Close collaboration between client and technology provider throughout the development of the technical solution has been key to successfully meeting the challenge of designing a furnace with a sufficiently broad operating range to accommodate feedstock with such widely varying mineralogy.
“Tenova Pyromet had the experience of designing a relatively similar solution for another platinum miner, but the project for Northam took the challenge to a much higher level and we are confident that our solution is a milestone in the industry,” says Andre Esterhuizen, General Manager, Sales and Marketing, Tenova Pyromet.
“Not only does this project prove yet again that South Africa remains at the forefront of technology development in the global industry, but it is also notable for the fact that it is a proudly all-South African initiative – drawing on the expertise of a local technology provider, local contractors and suppliers and with the vast majority of the components manufactured locally – for a South African PGM producer.’”
“The cyclical nature of the mining industry requires that miners such as Northam adopt a long term perspective in terms of strategic capital expenditure. Tenova Pyromet’s solution, which provides us with the flexibility to accommodate a range of smelter feedstock, positions us well to meet our growth aspirations,” says Rene Rautenbach, Manager – Projects and Strategy, Northam Platinum.
Tenova Pyromet’s scope on the project covers the PGM smelting furnace, feed system and off gas handling plant, as well as the furnace building and all associated civil works, infrastructure and services.
The partnership between Tenova Pyromet and Northam, the fourth largest PGM producer in the world, dates back to the 1990s and includes the recent design of a complete furnace cooling system for Northam’s existing 15 MW furnace. These were the first Tenova Pyromet copper cooling elements to be installed on a six-in-line furnace.
*Photo shows Northam’s Booysendal operation near Steelpoort
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