The Impact Of Platinum Production From UG2 Ore On Ferrochrome Production In South Africa

Cramer, L. A.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 11
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2004
South African platinum mines produce the world?s majority of platinum metal that is used in autocatalysts and jewellery. As the platinum market is forecast to grow at healthy rates into the future, the South African producers, Anglo Platinum, Impala, Lonmin and Northam, are planning to expand in the next decade. Furthermore, a number of smaller producers who are accessing other mineral rights are entering the buoyant market. The South African platinum mines have traditionally exploited the Merensky Reef of the Bushveld Igneous Complex (BIC); however, the mining of this reef is reaching depths that require significant vertical shaft systems and costly refrigeration for access to the orebodies at deeper levels. In the past decade all of the producers have begun to mine the less attractive UG2 reef because of its cheaper mining costs. This UG2 reef contains significant quantities of chromite with typically a chrome-to-iron (Cr/Fe) ratio of 1.35. UG2 ores can contain between 10 and 25% Cr2O3dependingupon the reef width and the selected mining method. It is relatively cheap and easy to extract a portion of the chromite from a platinum concentrator tailings stream at a grade of between 40?42% Cr2O3. However, it is only in recent years that some ferrochrome producers have begun to source some of their chromite from the tailings of platinum producers. South Africa is also the world?s largest single producer of ferrochrome and supplies much of the world?s stainless steel producers and thus the growing market for their product. As the traditional sources of high Cr/Fe ratio ores have been depleted at the shallow economic depths and thus have become more expensive sources of chromite, technical developments have improved the ability to use fine chromite economically to make acceptable grades of ferrochrome. Thus UG2 fines are now becoming possible cheap sources of acceptable feed to the ferrochrome industry. The abundance of feedstock for ferrochrome production and the lessening dependence on mined material will impact upon the structure of the ferrochrome business in South Africa. With continued platinum mining from UG2 reefs, South Africa is set to remain highly competitive in the world?s ferrochrome/stainless steel industry.
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