The facility will refine gold from a variety of sources, including bullion and recycled scrap, and manufacture 10-tola bars for the Middle Eastern and Asian markets.
“Mintek's involvement in this project, which was initiated and greatly facilitated by Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA), has enabled local technology to gain an important foothold in the Middle Eastern gold processing sector,” said Cliff Crutchfield, the project manager in Mintek's Business Development division. Mintek itself has made an investment in the project equal to 10% of the refinery's value.
The Al Ghurair Giga refinery, the largest of its kind, incorporates several new systems that form a complete bar production and added-value section as part of the turnkey project. Upstream of the refining section, a Mintek Atomijet is used to condition the feed into fine particulate material for leaching. The refinery product is further processed though precision batching and re-alloying equipment, a bar casting system, automated bar marking and quality control machines and a final packaging system. The Minataur plant itself is equipped with a sophisticated PLC-based control and management system, and a laboratory has also been supplied to support the whole production capability.
The refinery, which was designed and constructed at Mintek, will be shipped to Dubai in November. Commissioning is scheduled to take place in the first quarter of 2003.
Minataur (Mintek Alternative Technology for Au Refining) is a novel all-hydrometallurgical gold-refining process, that for the first time gives producers the ability to directly produce their own high-purity product on-site. The process, which is based on solvent extraction, produces refined gold in the form of a metallic powder with a purity of “four nines” (99,99%) or higher. It can treat a wide variety of feed materials, with gold contents ranging from about 20% to 99%, including gold-electrowinning cathode sludge, silver-refining anode slimes, and zinc precipitation filtrates, as well as bullion and jewellery scrap.
Compared with conventional smelting and electrorefining technology, the Minataur process is easier to operate and control, and significantly reduces the lock-up time of the gold. The process is highly selective for gold over silver, base metals, and platinum-group metals (PGMs).
The first full-scale Minataur refinery, with a capacity of 2 000 kg of gold a month, was commissioned in 1997 at Harmony Gold in South Africa. An expanded refinery now handles all of Harmony's output from its South African operations. Further Minataur plants have been installed in Algeria and Italy.
The Dubai Metals and Commodities Centre (DMCC) project, which was announced at the end of April 2002, is aimed at establishing Dubai as a fully-fledged gold trading centre like New York or Zurich. Currently, between 250 and 300 t of gold a year, some 10% of the world's production, is routed through Dubai. By establishing a free trade zone with the right supporting infrastructure, including world-class refining and benchmarking facilities, the project hopes to bring half the global trade in gold to the Emirate in the next few years. In this regard, the geographical location of Dubai – strategically situated between Africa, Europe, and Asia and in close proximity to India, the world's largest physical market for gold – will be an important advantage.
Terry Smeeton, the DMCC's advisory board member for gold, sees the Dubai physical market as complementing the London market, which is primarily the centre for financial, leasing, and clearing transactions in bullion.
“Dubai is a physical centre, with a potential to develop its standing as a supplier of gold to the middle East and Asia, as well as jewellery to its growing tourist industry,” he said.