New Technologies In The Concentration Of PGM Values From UG-2 Ores

Bryson, M. A. W.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 4
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2004
It is well documented that a significant amount of the new PGM (Platinum Group Minerals) production that is coming on stream now, and over the next few years, is to come from the UG-2 reef. Clearly the reservations, or perhaps the perceived reservations, attached to the processing of this ore are no longer there. What were the metallurgical issues that delayed the exploitation of the PGM values from this reef? Traditional furnaces treating Merensky concentrates were not able to accept the concentrate produced from a UG-2 plant due to the relatively high chromite content of this product. The chromite reports to an insoluble spinel phase that accretes in the furnace, resulting in the necessity to shutdown and dig the furnace out periodically. This was clearly not an attractive economic option, so producers stayed away from it in the early days. The Merensky ore had all higher base metal credits anyway, and you needed them to get a matte fall, so there was no driving force to look seriously at the UG-2 reef. Platinum demand at this time could be easily met from the Merensky ore, so the motivation to tackle more complex ores was not there. The low price of PGMs meant that these operations were not particularly profitable and there was little effort directed at improving the operations. Concentrators were generally not run very efficiently and the emphasis was on cost reduction through increasing milling rates.
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