Nickel sulphate plant under way in South Africa

  • Market: Metals
  • 06/09/18

Construction has begun on South Africa's first nickel sulphate purification plant at platinum group metals mining firm Lonmin's base metals refinery in North West province.

Being developed by Thakadu Battery Materials to beneficiate Lonmin's by-product nickel output, the 250mn rand ($16.6mn) plant is expected to have production capacity of 25,000 t/yr of battery grade nickel sulphate, sought after by battery producers for electric vehicles and energy storage.

Commercial production from the plant is expected by mid 2019, Thakadu said. Its partners in the project are Lonmin and the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation and Department of Trade and Industry.

The development of the plant is in line with South Africa's push towards increasing the beneficiation of metals and minerals within the country to create jobs and boost export income.

Lonmin, which is the subject of a takeover by fellow precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater, produces nickel, copper and chrome as by-products of its platinum group metals (PGM) production. Most of it comes from UG2 ore. The company sold 2,432 t of refined nickel, 1,782t of copper and 1.07mn t of chrome in the nine months to 30 June.

While South Africa's world-leading PGM producers are large-scale chrome producers with output of more than 4mn t/yr, they are also becoming increasingly important producers of nickel by-products for the growing demand for battery minerals.


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