January 23, 2018

M14 Project

Minister Susan Shabangu launches M14 (Manganese Beneficiation) Furnace

BHP Billiton, a global player in the production of major commodities such aluminium, copper, energy coal, iron ore, manganese, metallurgical coal, nickel, silver and uranium, with a substantial interests in oil and gas has just completed the construction of a R1 billion(US$109million) project in Meyerton, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Metalloys, operated by BHP Billiton, is one of the largest manganese smelters in the world and the construction of M14 has contributed to the expansion of the Metalloys’ production capacity by an additional 81 MVA.

The 81 MVA development, which has an electrode diameter of 1.9 metres and a depth of 8 metres, is a submerged arc furnace which enables harvesting of energy from the off-gases to generate more power.

The design of the furnace was based on current design of the large production units on site, with improvements to some of the furnace components to ensure increased reliability, availability and also improved pollution control for the production process. The furnace is designed to produce 120kt of High Carbon Ferro Manganese per annum.

The key business rationale for this investment includes increasing the overall production volume of the Metalloys site, the distribution of capacity to more energy efficient production processes, and the support of the current government initiatives to increase beneficiation in the country.

Energy efficiency

In addition, M14 furnace will contribute additional carbon monoxide (CO) off-gas to the onsite power generation plant (Elgen), for additional power output, thus raising the energy sufficiency at Metalloys. This, together with focus on more energy efficient production processes will lead to an improved position with regard to energy efficiency across the production facility, and result in a reduction in CO2 footprint.

The development, with a projected capacity of 120kt of High Carbon Ferro Manganese per annum, is viewed as environmental friendly since the secondary off-gasses are captured and used for the production of electricity through Electricity Generation (Elgen) plant which reduces the burden on Eskom by 20%, and thus contributing to a reduced environmental footprint.

In addition, the development boasts of primary scrubber which can operate at lower power levels and thereby reducing the impact on the environment.  The project also incorporated safety features such as pressure relief mechanism which have been improved.

Safety and health is of paramount importance for Metalloys and it was made possible through the careful selection of the project team who ensured the project is executed, according to the company’s Zero Harm standards, in time and within budget.

Managing a construction of this magnitude always brings along simultaneous operations, making it difficult to manage the safety aspect. With more than 700 people on site at any given time, translating to 14,000 fingers working in the furnace, with less than 10 people that incurred minor injuries, is a demonstration of the company’s commitment to safety.

The billion Rand project commenced in August 2011 and was completed in December 2012.

Official launch

To sum up the successful completion of the multi-million rand Manganese Beneficiation project and to officially launch the development, the Department of Minerals Resources (DMR) delivered a speech through Minister Susan Shabangu (MP) and an extract of the Minister’ speech follows below.

“This success should ensure that the country becomes one of the leading countries in the production of beneficiated products, such as ferroalloys. The ferroalloys sector is an apt illustration of the fact beneficiation is not a new concept in South Africa and also that ample scope for growth in mineral beneficiation still remains. From its humble beginnings in 1918, the South African ferroalloys industry has grown in leaps and bounds to be a significant player globally.

Metalloys has also been part of this illustrious history since 1951 and is still an important feature of this illustrious history since 1951 and is still an important feature on the country’s mineral beneficiation landscape, processing a significant portion of BHP Billiton’s manganese ore production.

largest investment in a manganese smelter

Investment in the M14 project is possibly the largest investment in a manganese smelter globally at almost R1billion and demonstrates that BHP Billiton has recognised that opportunities for mineral beneficiation are abound in South Africa. Furthermore, it demonstrates that with some innovativeness, the constraints that have been a focal point for some are not insurmountable.

The fact that with local skills, 20 per cent energy efficiency was realised in the new furnace shows that there is still ample scope for growing current beneficiation productive capacity without necessarily increasing energy demand and this is a very commendable achievement. Another commendable achievement is the fact that this is done whilst at the same time reducing the environmental footprint of the entire facility and still maintains a competitive market position in a difficult global economy.

This achievement, with local skills, is yet another indicator that South Africa is a country with a treasure trove of not only mineral resources but also of human capacity, which if properly harnessed can contribute towards the provision of a better life for our people. In this case, BHP has once again heeded the call of the NDP for active citizenry by contributing to the country’s human resources thus bolstering Government’s commitment, amongst others, to train a surplus of artisans in the endeavourto set the country’s economy on a more inclusive and accelerated growth trajectory. I hope that this facility will position itself as one of key centres for training of artisans in the country.

This project is a positive proof that government’s vision of increased mineral beneficiation is beginning to take shape and that it will happen within the context of sustainable development as the technical specifications of this furnace show. The challenge for the country is to ensure that we maximise the value we derive from our mineral resources throughout the mining value chain. In this regard, we should in partnerships explore ways of increasing local beneficiation beyond production of ferroalloys.

In conclusion, I would like to quote one of this country’s greatest statesmen, Mr Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done”. These inspiring words of a wise man resonate with the launch of this facility, at the time when most experts have cautioned against such interventions as beneficiations, indicating that it would be impossible to do so in South Africa. These words must strengthen our resolve in striving to achieve the vision of increased mineral beneficiation.

On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, this major investment is welcomed in South Africa, corroborative of the confidence that a major international company has in the investment climate across the mineral value chain”.

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