Address by the Minister of Mineral Resources of the Republic of South Africa, Honourable Susan Shabangu on the occasion of the official opening of Mintek’s R&D Atomiser
2 Oct 2012
Chairperson of the Board, Mr Mohau Mphomela
CEO of MINTEK, Abiel Mngomezulu
Mr Leon Coetzer, CEO of Jubilee Platinum
Mr July Ndlovu, Executive Head of Process at Anglo American Platinum
Executive Members at MINTEK and
It gives me great pleasure to be part of this auspicious occasion, the opening of the MINTEK’s Research and Development Atomiser. This facility represents an on-going collaboration between Mintek and the platinum industry, this latest phase being with Anglo American Platinum.
The launch of this programme could not have come at a better time when the mining industry, particularly the platinum sector, is faced with crippling global market conditions and in turn a spate of labour unrest.
Last year in June Cabinet approved the beneficiation strategy as policy. This has given us a firm basis to pursue a comprehensive and integrated approach to mineral beneficiation. Down-stream, side-stream and up-stream activities and industries that associate with our mineral wealth will be systematically and carefully structured so as to achieve our overall objective of job creation and increased government revenue.
This launch further consolidates this vision and places MINTEK at the centre of it. 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. I would like to commend Anglo American Platinum on this initiative.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Atomiser facility is the latest development in Mintek’s on-going PGM programme. Previously Mintek, together with Atomaer, Braemore and later Jubilee Platinum, developed the ConRoast technology, which allows the smelting of sulphur poor PGM concentrates and is currently being commercialised by Jubilee Platinum in mining and processing.
The Atomiser transforms the PGM bearing liquid metal produced by the furnace into metal powder. Powders offer significant benefits in material handling and downstream processing. This offers the potential to improve the efficiency of the current processing technology.
This technical collaboration is aimed at lowering the costs and environmental burden of the platinum sector and consequently represents one of the tangible areas where government is working with industry to remove technical impediments and reduce risk in the sector.
This indeed is fully in line with our vision, as the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), to enable a comprehensively economical, sustainable and meaningfully transformed mining and minerals sector to ensure that all South Africans derive sustainable benefit from the country’s mineral wealth, and are in support of the beneficiation strategy.
Having been established with the mandate to research and promote mineral technology while fostering the establishment and expansion of industries in the field of mineral beneficiation, Mintek has achieved international recognition for its contributions. As a result, it is now considered among the leading providers of minerals processing and metallurgical products and services to industries world-wide.
This project represents the coming together of Mintek (an agency of the DMR) and the world’s leading producer of platinum, Anglo American Platinum, jointly to assess a technology that has the potential to improve the productivity and efficiency of current processing methods. As the department we always strive towards working hand in hand with the mining sector in a joint effort to solve problems.
I would also like to acknowledge that this opportunity has only arisen because of the extensive facilities that are available at Mintek, a testament to government’s vision in establishing and supporting Mintek.
Today we are officially opening the new Research and Development Atomiser that has been installed at a cost of more than R40 million, but it relies on the rest of Mintek’s Bay 2 Smelter facility, which represents hundreds of millions of rands of previous investment. Suffice it to say that if the smelter had not existed the costs of evaluating the atomiser technology would have been prohibitive.
I would like to thank Anglo American Platinum for joining government in co-funding this facility. Also, let me acknowledge the previous financial support provided by Jubilee Platinum in the upgrading of the Smelter. This also facilitated the current atomiser plant.
Thanks to such initiatives, the mining and minerals industry in South Africa has been extremely innovative, taking into consideration that a dynamic research and development sector, coupled with a culture of innovation and skills development, are central in achieving our vision of transformation.
I was pleased to learn that the selected feed material for this demonstration programme is waste material from a dump that is being reprocessed to recover the remaining platinum and to render the waste slag much more environmentally friendly (along with removing the environmental legacy of the current dump). It just shows that green approaches can be followed even when undertaking research and development programmes.
In the midst of the challenges that the South African mining sector is facing, I am pleased that we are not discouraged and work is continuing as we cannot afford to drop the ball.
Ladies and gentlemen, last week Thursday, the University of the Witwatersrand invited me to the launch of the WITS Mining Research Institution which will see academics and industry experts from all over the country bringing together ideas - spearheading the development of new technologies and innovative systems to further the rich mining experience of this country. Indeed if we work together and in a collaborative manner we will do more. Our country is a cutting-edge environment for mining and mining-related research and development. We have the deepest mines, we have hard-rock mines – these are our laboratories.
The future of the mining industry also requires a concerted effort to support domestic mineral beneficiation. Beneficiation of South Africa’s minerals is a critical component of the nation’s industrial and economic development framework. It is the vehicle through which South Africa’s resource-based comparative advantage can be transformed into a national competitive advantage.
It is not our intention to force mining companies into being manufacturers, but rather to address the challenge of the inaccessibility of our raw materials as an impediment to greater local beneficiation. I am delighted with the initiative shown by some mining companies to support the aims of the beneficiation strategy. Yet we need a more co-ordinated approach and that is the aim of the implementation framework that is being developed with five value chains as pilots.
Linked to these value chains, the mining industry has the potential to induce prosperous industrial clusters to support its development, a concept that can significantly broaden the country’s economic growth. Hence we need to construct a mining industry that cares, a mining industry that is proud to be part of the transformation agenda of South Africa.
We appreciate and are grateful for the involvement of foreign companies such as Atomaer and Jubilee Platinum in working together with Mintek during the previous phase which saw the establishment of the ConRoast process.
It is therefore my wish that the two-year duration of this research and development programme aimed at demonstrating the viability of metal atomising technology will be so successful that Anglo American Platinum will consider extending its involvement in this project.
Let me conclude in the wise and not always cynical words of Niccolo Machiavelli, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things”. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a challenge that the South African mining sector must take. It is now more than ever compelled to “take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things”, however difficult the challenge may be.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Mineral Resources
2 Oct 2012
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