Technological Breakthrough Of The Mintek Thermal Magnesium Process

Schoukens, A. F. S.
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2006
The Mintek Thermal Magnesium Process (MTMP) was successfully demonstrated in November 2004. The pilot plant was operated continuously for 8 days, during which about 30 tons of magnesium producing recipe was smelted in a DC (direct-current) arc furnace at a feed rate of 525 kg/h. The furnace was operated at power levels of 700 to 850 kW, resulting in slag tapping temperatures of 1600 to 1700°C. Magnesium extraction averaged 77 per cent and was as high as 85 per cent during good extraction periods. The furnace generated 70 to 85 kg/h magnesium vapour that was delivered to the condenser where the temperature was controlled at 680 to 720°C. The novel condenser captured the magnesium in a liquid state, which was tapped periodically as required. In total, 15 magnesium-tapping operations were carried out, proving that online magnesium tapping can be consistently performed without any major difficulty. About 3500 kg of crude magnesium was produced with a quality that was similar to, if not better than, that of the Magnetherm?s crude metal. The condensation efficiency averaged 85 per cent, and peaked at 87 per cent, which exceeded the target of 80 per cent set for the pilot scale. A brief magnesium market study was also carried out. Magnesium demand is expected to keep on growing by 6 to 8 percent over the next 10 years and could reach 2 million tons by the year 2020. The growth will be mainly in the die-casting sector for light-weight automotive applications. China is likely to remain the dominant supplier of primary magnesium but competitively priced non-Chinese magnesium producers will be needed to sustain the anticipated growth of 6 to 8 per cent over the next 10 years. In addition, a prefeasibility study was undertaken for a commercial plant. The study confirmed the relatively low capitalcosts of the MTMP process, as well as the competitiveness of theoperating costs, as compared to the industrial electrolytic process.
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