Johannesburg, South Africa. 23 May 2012. SepFluor Limited (SepFluor), the new name in fluorspar mining and beneficiation in South Africa, has unveiled plans for the development of its first fluorspar mine, 80 kilometres north of Pretoria, together with a fluoro-chemical beneficiation hub near Bronkhorstpruit.
The two projects represent total capital investment of some R2.1 billion, to be raised through a mixture of debt and equity in local and international markets, and will create some 400 new jobs directly and about 2 000 indirectly, says SepFluor CEO Alan Smith.
Key motivators for the two, linked projects, Smith says, are fluorspar’s ‘strategic mineral’ status in key global markets, growing demand throughout Southern Africa particularly for fluoro-chemical products, and the South African government’s support for development of a fluoro-chemical initiative in the country.
Construction of the Nokeng Mine and associated concentrator, to be developed at an estimated cost of R900 million, is expected to begin during the fourth quarter of this year, with first production scheduled for the second quarter of 2014. Nokeng’s current life of mine – based on exploitation of two of its three fluorspar deposits – is 19 years.
At full production, Smith says, the open pit mine is expected to produce between 185 000 and 130 000 tonnes per annum of acid grade fluorspar for SepFluor’s own fluoro-chemical beneficiation hub and up to 30 000 tonnes per annum of metallurgical grade fluorspar for local and export steel markets.
The fluoro-chemical hub will be built 50 kilometres from Nokeng at the Ekandustria industrial site near Bronkhorstspruit at an estimated cost of R1.2 billion, also to be raised through a debt/equity mix in local and international markets. Construction is expected to shadow development of the Nokeng Mine, with first production – initially of hydrogen fluoride, aluminium tri-fluoride and anhydrite – also in the second quarter of 2014.
While some 42 000 tonnes per annum of hydrogen fluoride from the hub’s hydrogen fluoride facility will flow directly to its aluminium tri-fluoride facility for the manufacture of 60 000 tonnes per annum of aluminium tri-fluoride to be supplied to local and international aluminium smelters, a further 18 000 tonnes per annum will be available for metal pickling and for further downstream fluorochemical initiatives, which could also be accommodated within the hub. The hydrogen fluoride facility will also produce some 216 000 tonnes per annum of anhydrite for cement and fertilizer applications.
Future growth for SepFluor is expected to flow from development both of its other three mining projects – two in Limpopo province and one in Gauteng – all of which are at exploration stage, and from expansion of the beneficiation hub, Smith says. Current design of the hydrogen fluoride facility allows for an increase in production of 30 000 tonnes per annum.
SepFluor recently unbundled from HDSA-controlled, JSE-listed industrial minerals development company Sephaku Holdings Limited (SepHold). Smith says the intention is to list SepFluor – currently held privately by some 800 shareholders – by the first quarter of 2013.