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Bushveld delivers record production despite loadshedding; electrolyte plant construction on track

31st January 2023

By: Chanel de Bruyn

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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Integrated primary vanadium producer and energy storage solutions provider Bushveld Minerals produced a record 3 842 t of vanadium in the 12 months to December 31 and has set its production guidance for this year at between 4 200 t and 4 500 t of vanadium.

Although production in 2022 was higher than the 3 592 t produced in 2021, output was slightly below the company's revised guidance range of 3 900 t to 4 100 t as loadshedding resulted in about 200 t of lost production at Bushveld's Vanchem processing facility, in Mpumalanga.

Vanchem produced 1 237 t of vanadium in 2022, compared with 1 138 t the year before. Production was impacted on by lower recoveries as a result of Kiln 1's refractory reaching the end of life during the first half of 2022, a slower-than-expected ramp up of Kiln 3 in the first half of the year and electricity loadshedding which negatively impacted on the ramp-up of production at Kiln 3 in the second half of the year.

Bushveld points out that Vanchem and the Emalahleni municipality had, in November last year, agreed a load curtailment solution, aimed at preventing the plant from experiencing total power loss during scheduled loadshedding.

"While we still envisage some impact, it should reduce the effect and enable Vanchem to continue to ramp up towards steady-state production. The company continues to engage other parties, including Eskom, to seek a longer-term solution.

"Furthermore, similar to the Vametco hybrid-minigrid, we are developing battery storage plus renewable energy solutions to supplement the power requirements of Vanchem," the company adds.

It notes that Vanchem's production for 2023 should be higher than in 2022, but cautions that the exact production figures will depend on the consistency of power supply.

Meanwhile, Bushveld's Vametco mine and processing plant, in North West, produced 2 705 t of vanadium in 2022 – exceeding the upper end of guidance of 2 550 t to 2 650 t.

The company expects Vametco's production for 2023 to be in line with that of 2022.

"I am pleased to report a year of production growth and completion of significant capital projects at Bushveld Minerals, despite external challenges related to electricity availability and supply chains," comments Bushveld CEO Fortune Mojapelo.

"On the capital investment front, in 2022 we completed Vanchem's Kiln 3 refurbishment. Importantly, as a result of completion of this project, the capital expenditure (capex) budget for 2023 is primarily related to sustaining capital," he adds.

Group capex for 2023 is expected to be between $9.2-million and $9.7-million.

Bushveld is focused on building a sustainable, cash-generative, low-cost production and processing platform to support the needs of the steel, chemical and energy sectors.

"A continued focus on operating and cost efficiencies will be largely driven by the further growth in throughput as the company targets a sustainable production run rate of 5 000 t to 5 400 t  over the near term, as well as continued focus on efficiencies and cost saving initiatives," the company highlights.

Two key projects for the group are the hybrid minigrid it is implementing at Vametco and the construction of the Bushveld Electrolyte Company (Belco) plant, which is expected to begin operations in the first half of this year.

"The commissioning of the electrolyte manufacturing plant will be a major achievement underpinning the group's vertical integration strategy and opening up a new market for our products," Bushveld says.

Capex for Belco for 2023 is set at $2.3-million to $2.4-million.

Belco is 55%-owned by Bushveld Energy and 45% by the Industrial Development Corporation and the plant, in the Eastern Cape, was designed to produce about eight-million litres of vanadium electrolyte a year.

Belco is undergoing a qualification process with several vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) manufacturers to use its electrolyte. 

VRFBs are used for energy storage.



Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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