JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Modern technology and global decarbonisation demand is positioning South Africa’s already incredibly well-endowed Northern Cape with big beneficiation bonanza potential, in addition to being a green minerals, green metals and green energy haven.
Rapidly developing clean beneficiation technology coupled with unprecedented demand growth for battery metal salts and specialist powders – precursor battery products –– are giving support to potential on-site production of added value products that attract significant price premiums as beneficiated products.
Calculations point to mining cut-off grades being able to accommodate even moderate-grade ores that contribute what is required in integrated additive manufacturing processes.
Technology and engineering advances have lowered capital expenditure and operating expenditure by removing the need for traditional high-energy roasting and smelting.
These investment-encouraging points were this week highlighted in a presentation to the Resources Rising Stars 2022 Gold Coast Conference in Australia by Orion Minerals, which reports that it is three months away from showing that it can develop very valuable future metallics in a district where it is reviving the Prieska copper/zinc mine and developing the Okiep copper project amid abundant solar and wind renewable energy and planned green hydrogen and green ammonia rollout.
The ASX- and JSE-listed company has signed an agreement for the development of a specialist battery product refining facility in the Northern Cape and signed a term sheet with Stratega Metals to investigate the use of its licensed refining technology to produce specialist battery precursor products locally.
Test work and scoping feasibility assessments are already under way on modified carbonyl and chlorine vapour technology, and modified derivation of process technology already in use at Vale’s Sudbury Refinery in Canada, Norilsk Nickel Refinery in Russia and Jinchuan Metals in China.
Being investigated is the deploying of near-zero-emission technology and zero water technology in low-energy consumption.
All indications point to Orion becoming a fast-tracker of future metals from its two known brownfield deposits of copper, zinc, nickel, cobalt, platinum-group elements, gold, silver, rare earth elements and lithium.
The acceleration of three base metal projects towards first production is at a well-advanced study stage, along with financing and strategic partner engagement in alignment with new market dynamics for future-facing metals.
“Ultimately, we will be producing precursor battery mineral products on site, in the Northern Cape,” Orion CEO Errol Smart told the conference covered by Mining Weekly.
Orion is developing along a path of full integration from exploration to mining and refining.
With precursor battery metal production it has swung to the value-add side, “and this is what’s really exciting s at the moment”.
It has identified a group of chemical engineer producers of precursor battery sulphides, battery metals, battery nickel and battery cobalt from the kind of ore that Orion will be mining.
These engineers have shown how all this can be done with off-the-shelf technology and hardware that is available from the petrochemicals industry.
“We’re busy drilling the first samples now that are going to go into lab test work and within three months we’re going to be able to show that we can develop a very valuable nickel/cobalt metallics producer in this district. That’s the fantastic opportunity that you’ve got in the Northern Cape,” added Smart.