One of four selected coastal areas in South Africa stands to be home to the world’s first integrated pure metals refinery plant producing titanium, zirconium, magnesium and silicon, upon completion of the feasibility study.
Rare Metals Industry is a consortium made up of the multi-billion-rand National Empowerment Fund, the IDC, Magnesium and Metals (a US and Russian consortium) and TJTI, another locally-based company.
The consortium members have jointly invested about R40-million to conclude a pre-feasibility study.
Speaking at the launch of the project in Johannesburg yesterday, RMI’s project chairman Donovan Chimhandamba said the $1.2-billion project would create 2800 skilled jobs during its construction phase and in excess of 5000 jobs once the plant becomes operational in 2014.
He said the potential locations for the plant include Saldanha Bay, East London, Port Elizabeth and Richards Bay.
“In addition, a much-needed skills transfer is likely to occur through our Russian partnership, further strengthening South African mining know-how and long-term sustainability,” Chimhandamba said.
He said South Africa was best suited for the project as it possessed an “abundance” of mineral resources and because of its ranking as the world’s second-largest producer of titanium slag after China.
Chimhandamba said titanium is difficult and expensive to produce, and would be useful in high-technology industries such as aero-space, nuclear and chemical processes. “It is envisaged that at full operational capacity, the plant will produce 50000 tons of magnesium, 15000 tons of titanium, 8000 tons of silicon and 2000 tons of zirconium annually, coupled with some derivative products.
“The other identified importance of the project to South Africa is that it will increase the country’s export-earning potential as well as BBBEE participation at an early stage,” he said.
Hilton Lazarus, IDC’s head of chemical industries said his corporation supported the initiative “because of the strategic nature of beneficiating locally mined minerals as outlined in the National Industrial Policy Framework”.