Orion Minerals

Thakadu Battery Materials has marked the construction phase of its nickel sulphate purification plant at Lonmin’s base metals refinery in the North West province.

The plant is being built at an estimated cost of R250 million, with some 90% of the project value having been committed to date.

The project is on schedule and under budget.

All major equipment has been ordered and key contracts awarded, including modular fabrication of platework and structures; civil, building and installation; electrical and instrumentation; control and automation and motor control centres and field isolators.

“This nickel purification plant is a flagship black industrialist project and we are proud to partner with Thakadu – such initiatives are key for beneficiation in South Africa and market extension for Lonmin’s by-product streams,” comments Lonmin CEO, Ben Magara.

Thakadu commenced civil works and construction on site in August. While work is carried out on site at the refinery, Thakadu is advancing the manufacture of the modular plant, which began in early June 2018 at Styria Stainless Steel in Wadeville, Johannesburg.

As fabrication and assembly of the modular plant completes, the individual modules will be delivered to site in sequence for installation starting in November 2018, a process that is envisaged to take between five and six months.

This means that Thakadu effectively has two construction sites operating concurrently. The modular parallel construction philosophy has significantly reduced overall project costs, risks and time to first production.

Fast tracking of modular fabrication and ordering long-lead items while waiting for debt facility drawdown has given Thakadu numerous advantages.

Most importantly, the company was able to lock in favourable stainless steel prices and exchange rates earlier in the year, which has maintained the project’s great return metrics.

The plant is projected to produce 25 000 t of high-purity battery-grade nickel sulphate every year and cold commissioning is scheduled to begin in April 2019.

Commercial production is planned for end of H1 2019.

Thakadu CEO, Ruli Diseko notes that over 60 permanent jobs will be created once the plant is fully operational with a further 200 employment opportunities during construction.

“We are thrilled to see this commercial-scale operation producing battery grade nickel sulphate reach implementation phase – a first for South Africa and a first for Thakadu.

“I would like to acknowledge and thank our partners Lonmin, IDC and DTI for supporting us in making beneficiation a reality in our country,” continues Diseko.