Innovative PGM furnace for Northam Platinum on track for 2017 handover


foundryHigh capacity furnace and smelting plant specialist, Tenova Pyromet announced  that it has completed 50 % of Northam Platinum Limited’s new platinum group metals (PGM) furnace at its Zondereinde smelter operation in Thabazimbi, South Africa, having met all major project milestones to date. As a result, handover of a fully operational 20 MW furnace is on track for August 2017.

Project milestones achieved include the first steel being raised on site in mid July 2015 as per the scheduled project date. This is the first of over 1,000 tonnes of structural steelwork that will be used on the project. More than 20 % of the civil structures are also complete, while the placing of the 12 m diameter furnace shell marks another significant milestone, with the site establishment of the mechanical installation contractor.

Access to the first two floors of the furnace building is scheduled to be achieved prior to the 2016 December recess in South Africa, with a number of local and international deliveries scheduled to take place by then.

The contract, which was awarded to Tenova Pyromet by Northam Platinum in 2015, will support Northam Platinum’s planned growth in PGM production, which requires the flexibility to process high chromite, low base metal and high sulphur contained concentrates. With Northam’s innovative pyrometallurgical approach and Tenova Pyromet’s technical ability, Northam will be able to operate the furnace either as a submerged arc operation or brush arc operation and will therefore have a sufficiently broad operating range to accommodate feedstock with a widely varying mineralogy.

Tenova Pyromet’s scope on the project covers the PGM smelting furnace, feed system and off gas handling plant, as well as the furnace building and all associated civil works, infrastructure and services.  State-of-the-art technology that forms part of the technical solution includes Tenova Pyromet electrodes, copper cooling elements, and off gas handling and furnace controller.

“We are acknowledged worldwide for the advanced technical solutions we provide our clients, but the progress that has been made to date, right on schedule, in the construction activities is also testimony to Tenova Pyromet’s strength in managing the execution of such major and innovative projects,” says Andre Esterhuizen, general manager, sales and marketing, Tenova Pyromet. “Such large projects call for the interfacing of numerous contractors on site and, in the case of this project, within an operational plant.”