RUSTENBURG (miningweekly.com) – Black-owned fabrication and mining installations company Linhleko Projects this week officially launched its cooperation agreement with FLSmidth – a 50:50 profit-sharing agreement in which Linhleko uses FLSmidth’s REFLUX Classifier (RC) technology to enhance chrome recovery from Sibanye-Stillwater’s Waterval operation.
Linhleko Group marketing director Refiloe Mankga explained that the agreement was part of FLSmidth’s enterprise development programme.
Under the terms of the agreement, Linhleko, which has guaranteed access to the RC technology through a cooperation agreement with FLSmidth, will build, own, operate and eventually transfer an RC modular plant that will produce chromite concentrate by processing material from Waterval’s waste dumps.
Mankga said Linhleko and FLSmidth were looking for business opportunities where it can use the reflux technology, which is suitable to any gravity amenable mineral resource, across Southern Africa.
FLSmidth project manager Kelly Rule explained that the RC technology, which comprises a lamella settler, autogenous dense media separation and fluidised bed, can improve recoveries on traditional spirals by an additional 10%.
Mankga noted that Linhleko would complete the testwork, design and project execution at Waterval at its own cost, and that Linhleko and FLSmidth would invest R235-million into the project, which would create 50 direct jobs, an additional 40 service jobs, as well as enable business opportunities for local suppliers.
She added that Linhleko is committed to investing in local communities in addition to creating opportunities for economic development.
FLSmidth Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa president Deon de Kock noted that the RC technology’s main aim is to enhance the sustainability at operations through increased efficiencies and reducing the environmental footprint.
He stated that, as a Danish multinational, it was important that its focus on sustainability incorporate “good corporate governance and integrity” and as a result furthered the objectives of transformation initiatives such as government’s Black Industrialists Programme.
He stressed that while the original-equipment manufacturer’s (OEM’s) commitment to transformation objectives is undisputed, FLSmidth’s black economic empowerment partnerships would “always be on business principles,” and that the company was fortunate to collaborate with “driven, passionate and highly skilled partners like Linhleko.”
De Kock added that Linhleko and FLSmidth were “equal partners” and that the OEM was the “right technology partner for this deal”.
He also lauded Sibanye for its willingness to embrace the RC technology.
He reiterated that the 50:50 profit-sharing deal with Linhleko would enable it to act independently of FLSmidth, and represented an approach to projects that government could consider promoting among other OEMs.
Sibanye chrome senior VP David Kovarsky stated that the agreement was a symbol of its optimism and confidence in the future of South Africa’s mining industry, adding that, while the sector had experienced “a tough time . . . we are better off than we were a year ago.”
He commented that the demand for stainless steel, specifically in China and India, had positive connotations for chrome-based revenue.
“The nature of the tailings is such that not all of the chrome is recovered . . . a lot of the fine material gets put on waste dumps.” He noted that the RC technology would enable Sibanye to recover more chrome and increase concentrate production by a “massive” 20%.
He added that the potential benefits of the project were so significant that all three parties were willing to stay at the negotiating table for the better part of a year to establish a deal. Moreover, the Linhleko project is the only major project the Sibanye board approved in 2018 at its existing platinum operations.
Mintek physical separation group head Lesetsa Mabokela explained that the research organisation had completed the testwork for Linhleko and that it hopes to continue its working relationship with the company.
He added that the technology “presents a real opportunity for these historical dumps to make a meaningful contribution to job creation and economic development”.
Mineral Resources Deputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant noted that the project contributed to several of government’s stated objectives, as it supported the development of small, medium-sized and microenterprises, was aligned to the broad-based black economic empowerment codes, the Black Industrialists Programme and Mining Charter 3, and assisted in job creation and poverty alleviation.
FLSmidth mining president Manfred Schaffer, who flew in from Denmark for the launch, noted that the cooperation agreement aligned with the overall group strategy, namely introducing technology to improve sustainability in mining.
He lauded the vision of the South African team, who saw the potential of the technology and engineered a practical and flexible solution for tailings recovery, and reaffirmed FLSmidth’s commitment to South Africa, pointing to the R100-million it is investing in the expansion of its Delmas facilities, as well as its aim to increase local content.
Linhleko Group CEO Buang Moloto enthused that the launch represented the redefining of black excellence in the mining sector, in which companies such as FLSmidth and Sibanye recognised and endorsed the expertise and capabilities of a Rustenburg-based black-owned company.
He noted that black-owned did not mean “black-only benefit” and called for other mining companies to follow Sibanye’s example and afford black-owned companies opportunities to grow and develop through mutually beneficial partnerships.
Moloto also noted that Linhleko would look to lead the adoption of new and innovative mineral processing technologies in South Africa, using independent technology assessors like Mintek, rather than waiting on the risk averse mining companies.
He stressed that he and his team did not take the partnership with FLSmidth for granted and were grateful to Sibanye for affording Linhleko a platform that will enable it to grow into an international supplier and inspire other black industrialists.