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New R230m chrome tailings plant launched

Thakadu Resources' Ruli Diseko and CromTech Holdings' Craig Bennett
Part of ChromTech's new chrome tailings retreatment plant

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South African mine-to-market chrome producer ChromTech Holdings said on Wednesday that it had completed a R230-million chrome tailings retreatment plant at Lonmin, where the plant forms part of the platinum-mining company’s bulk retreatment of upper group two tailings initiative, which is currently bringing the lowest cost ounces into the London- and Johannesburg-listed platinum mining company’s portfolio and providing near-term cash with minimal capital expenditure.

Completed on time and under budget in a 12-month construction period, the plant is the sixth chrome recovery plant that ChromTech has designed, constructed, commissioned and operated since its inception 12 years ago. 

Some 35 000 t of saleable chrome concentrate a month is expected from March, with most of the 60 permanent jobs going to local community members. 

Headed by CEO Craig Bennett, ChromTech will market the chrome through its own logistics and sales infrastructure, with synergies from the development of its Bleskop railway siding expected to unlock further value in the surrounding area. 

As reported by Mining Weekly Online in October 2016, beneficiation and trading company Thakadu Resources, headed by CEO Ruli Diseko, has a 26% interest in ChromTech, which was, at that time, producing and marketing about 250 000 t of chrome ore a year.

Earlier this month, Mining Weekly Online reported that Thakadu group company, Thakadu Battery Materials, had secured a R50-million black industrialist grant from South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for the construction of a pure nickel sulphate plant that will make use of Lonmin’s crude nickel sulphate stream.

Lonmin has agreed to supply its crude nickel sulphate stream to Thakadu for beneficiation into high-purity battery-grade nickel sulphate at a proposed R250-million purification plant to be constructed at Lonmin’s base metals refinery.

Commercial production is set for the first half of 2019 from a plant that is also expected to create 60 permanent jobs, plus 200 employment opportunities during construction.

Diseko, a 34-year-old Soweto-born former DTI economic analyst, has expressed the view that the project’s timing is particularly fortuitous in the light of battery companies increasing loadings of battery-grade nickel sulphate in nickel cobalt aluminium oxide NCA and nickel manganese cobalt oxide NMC technologies.

Initial indications are that the battery-grade nickel sulphate plant will generate a yearly pretax internal rate of return of 47.3% over its operating life.