by Mike O’Driscoll
Fluorspar renaissance rallies in South Africa (excerpt)
The emergence of a new era of South African fluorspar production may have been heralded by SepFluor Ltd subsidiary Nokeng Fluorspar Mine (RF) (Pty) Ltd commencing construction of its new fluorspar mine and plant, expected on stream by 2019.
This represents just Phase 1 of SepFluor’s ambitions to become a world leading source of fluorspar. Another mine, and HF and AlF3 plants are also planned.
Meanwhile, hard on the heels of SepFluor is SA Fluorite (Pty) Ltd with its development of the Doornhoek fluorspar deposit in North West province, expecting to secure mining rights by the end of 2018.
At present, while hosting the largest reserves of fluorspar in the world, South Africa has just one mine active and two others closed.
Chris Potgieter, Director, BFluor Chemicals (Pty) Ltd commented:“The noteworthy achievement by SepFluor of getting off-take and funding closure on their Nokeng project can signal a prelude of things to come in the South African fluorochemical industry.”
These latest developments and their significance in the context of the evolving global fluorine market are just some of the key topics which will be presented and discussed at IMFORMED’s Fluorine Forum 2017, 30 Oct-2 Nov., Hilton San Luis Potosi
SepFluor, which was unbundled from Sephaku Holdings in 2012, has been planning the Nokeng mine for at least seven years.
Located at Rust de Winter, 80km north-east of Pretoria, Gauteng province, the R1.7 billion (US$131m) Nokeng open pit fluorspar mine and concentrator is planned to produce 630,000 tpa crude fluorspar ore, 180,000 tpa acid grade fluorspar (acidspar), and 30,000 tpa of metallurgical grade fluorspar (metspar).
Construction is expected to be concluded within a 21-month period, with commissioning beginning in November 2018 and first production in January/February 2019.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has approved an infrastructure grant of R21 million under its Critical Infrastructure Programme (CIP), primarily as a contribution towards power supply and road works.
Nokeng is expected to create around 300 fixed-term jobs during construction and 200 permanent jobs. Nokeng’s social and labour plan (SLP) has committed some R26 million.
Another South African fluorspar prospect that has been on the drawing board for a while is the Doornhoek Fluorspar Project being developed by SA Fluorite (Pty) Ltd and Southern Palace (Pty) Ltd, part of Eurasian Natural Resources.
Located just south of Zeerust, North West province, close to the now closed Witkop fluorspar mine, the Doornhoek deposit has been drilled since 1977 but a complexity of rights, largely resolved by 2005, had historically delayed development.
The mineralisation is hosted by dolomite within three stratabound horizons stretching continuously over a distance of 12km x 4km. The main horizon has an average width of 12 metres hosting high grade pods of fluorspar.
“Due to the enormous size of the deposit, it has taken a lot longer to develop than smaller properties. To date we have drilled 1,836 diamond core boreholes totalling 140,000 metres.” said Allan Saad, consulting geologist, SA Fluorite.
A 43-101 compliant Preliminary Economic Assessment was completed in 2013 recording 142m tonnes @ 14% CaF2 indicated resource, and 516m tonnes @ 13.8% CaF2 inferred resource (a cut-off of 5% CaF2 was used).
All resources were determined from surface to a maximum depth of 90 metres and amenable to opencast mining methods.
Exploration drilling is now complete, and an application has been lodged with the Department of Mineral Resources for a mining right. The mining right is expected to be issued within the next 12 months, after which mine construction will commence.
In a major step forward as part of the mining right application process, detailed environmental management programme and environmental impact assessments for Doornhoek have been accepted and approved by the Department of Mineral Resources.
The company is now seeking participation partners or offtake agreements.
Thus the SepFluor Nokeng and SepChem projects, and the Doornhoek project could be very feasible given the right set of market conditions.
Such conditions could include the recent loss in fluorspar production capacity not just in South Africa, but also in Namibia (Solvay’s Okorusu mine closed in 2016), Kenya (Kenya Fluorspar’s Kerio Valley mine closed in 2016), Bulgaria (Bulgaria Fluorite’s (Solvay) Chiprovtsi mine closed in 2016), and Russia (Rusal’s Yaroslav Ore Mining Co. mothballed in 2013).
As ever, China plays a significant role in the world fluorspar industry and its influence will affect South African ambitions.
Demand for Chinese fluorspar – still the world’s largest supplier – from domestic consumers is increasing as China’s fluorochemicals industry booms and there is a real possibility that China may become a net importer of fluorspar.
This trend of increasing fluorspar consumption within China, combined with this year’s continuing interruptions to Chinese fluorspar (and other mineral) mining from dynamite restrictions and anti-pollution controls would certainly favour development of fluorspar and fluorochemical sources outside China.
Naturally, any South African newcomers would have to vie for position with other fluorspar projects in the pipeline, eg. Canada Fluorspar (Canada), Tertiary Minerals (TYM) (Sweden, Norway, USA), Hastie Mining (USA).
Overall, industry analysts report that the fluorochemicals market is likely receive a boost from infrastructure development in emerging economies, generating demand for refrigerants, solvents, and fluoropolymers.
South Africa’s fluorspar renaissance may yet be at hand.
Link here to full imformed.com article.