Vedanta investigates Gamsberg smelter-refinery feasibility

Vedanta investigates Gamsberg smelter-refinery feasibility

Vedanta Zinc International (VZI), a subsidiary of London-listed Vedanta Resources, has announced that the company has started a feasibility study into the development and construction of a Zinc Smelter-Refinery Complex to process concentrates from its Gamsberg project at Black Mountain Mining in Northern Cape province, South Africa.

The establishment of the proposed beneficiation plant makes Gamsberg a fully integrated zinc production site, with the mine, concentrator and Smelter-Refinery Complex at single location, making it the first integrated zinc manufacturing facility in South Africa. In line with the group’s commitment to southern Africa, the proposed investment would have a significant positive impact on the Northern Cape, creating jobs – directly and indirectly – and further developmental opportunities in the region.

It is envisaged that the first phase of the Smelter-Refinery Complex will have a capacity of 250 000tpa of finished zinc metal. As the entire Gasmberg project has been developed in a modular fashion, so the Smelter-Refinery Complex could also be expanded to align with Gamsberg Phases 2 and 3.

The feasibility study will evaluate the infrastructural requirements of the complex - the beneficiation facility will require around 200MW of additional power and additional water supply. Both of these mean significant large-scale investment.

The scope of the feasibility study includes a review of previous work undertaken by VZI into the possibility of developing a Southern African Zinc Cluster that would incorporate both Black Mountain and Skorpion Zinc, which is located in southern Namibia. Skorpion Zinc currently operates an integrated zinc refinery, and the potential exists for the conversion of this 150 000tpa refinery to co-treat sulphide and oxide concentrates from Gamsberg and other sulphide concentrate raw materials from nearby. Should these projects proceed, this Southern African Zinc Cluster has the potential to be one of the world’s largest zinc supply regions.

This feasibility study is in line with Vedanta’s commitment to beneficiating to final metal, which is the model followed by the group in India. The Gamsberg refinery could see additional investment by Vedanta of between USD700-million and USD800-million.

Gamsberg

Gamsberg is one of the largest unexploited zinc resources in the world. It has a reserve and resource of more than 200Mt and an estimated potential life-of-mine of 30 years.

Phase 1 of the USD400-million development of the Gamsberg Mine is well-underway, with first production scheduled for mid-2018, and full production expected to be reached in nine to 12 months. Phase 1 has a life of mine of 13 years, producing an expected 4Mtpa from the open pit mine and 250 000tpa from its concentrator plant.

To date around 60Mt of waste has been removed. For the concentrator plant, completion of mechanical equipment erection and infrastructure for power and water pipeline are in progress.

Around 2 700 people are currently employed on site, with more than 50% drawn from the province, of which around 500 people are from the Khai-Ma District. At full production, Gamsberg will employ about 700 permanent employees.

Triggering a wave of industrialisation

The expansion of Gamsberg into beneficiation streams has the potential to trigger a new wave of industrial and economic development the Northern Cape, which could provide additional opportunities for Vedanta and others, in what is one of the least developed regions of South Africa.

There are opportunities for further value-adding zinc beneficiation (such as galvanising), the creation of a regional fertiliser industry considering that a zinc smelter-refinery will produce sulphuric acid as a by-product (given the presence of phosphates), the accelerated development of the agricultural industry, prospects for steel production (given the proximity of iron, zinc and manganese mining) and potential for the development of rail and other logistical links.

And this would just be the beginning: industrial development needs additional power resources in a region that has vast potential for solar energy, water supply and other economic and social infrastructure requirements. These investment opportunities will be a game-changer for the region and contribute to economic growth in South Africa as a whole.


 

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