Tag Archives: hydrometallurgy

Metso Outotec to conduct strategic review in Metals business area segments

Metso Outotec says it will take the next structural development steps in its business portfolio, following the completed integration of its Minerals business and the successful turnaround of its Metals business.

The company plans to change its business area structure and related reporting segments by transferring the Hydrometallurgy business from Metals to Minerals. The objective of the change is to accelerate Metso Outotec’s profitable growth in the minerals processing industry by more efficiently leveraging the opportunities and synergies in the minerals and hydrometallurgical processes.

Having Hydrometallurgy as part of the Minerals business will, Metso Outotec, enable enhanced customer service with a competitive and fully integrated Planet Positive product offering, as well as closer integration with the customers’ processes through digitalisation. Going forward, gold and battery chemicals businesses are among the interesting new synergistic growth areas.

A strategic review will be conducted in the remaining Metals business area, consisting of the Smelting, Metals & Chemical Processing and the Ferrous & Heat Transfer business lines, as well as related aftermarket services. The review will focus on evaluating the best environment for developing the Metals business and its strategic fit in Metso Outotec’s business portfolio. All potential options will be considered, including development by Metso Outotec, co-development with a partner, or divestment. The review has no impact on Metals’ daily business conduct, sales, or project execution, which will continue with full commitment.

BHP backs Kabanga Nickel mine development and refinery plan

BHP has invested $40 million in Tanzania-focused Kabanga Nickel, in addition to backing Lifezone Limited and its patented hydrometallurgical technology with a $10 million investment.

Kabanga Nickel Limited says its share of the cash will be used to accelerate the development of the Kabanga nickel project in Tanzania, which it claims is the world’s largest development-ready nickel sulphide deposit.

Lifezone, meanwhile, will use the funds to advance the roll-out of its technologies. The owner of the hydrometallurgy technology that will be used to build and operate the planned nickel refinery in Tanzania, Lifezone claims this technology is more cost efficient than smelting, has a significantly lower environmental impact, and will ensure that finished Class 1 battery-grade nickel, copper and cobalt will be produced in Tanzania.

Chris Showalter, Kabanga Nickel CEO, said: “BHP is the ideal partner for Kabanga Nickel, bringing significant advantages and expertise that will enable us to move ahead with the project.

“BHP’s investment reflects the project’s strong ESG credentials and its role in improving environmental performance throughout the nickel value chain. In addition, BHP’s funding support of Lifezone’s hydromet technology – the future of sustainable metals processing – will drive progress towards a greener world. Through development of Kabanga and Lifezone hydromet, Tanzania will have a growing role in the supply of the battery metals needed to move to a global low carbon economy.”

The Kabanga nickel project has had more than $290 million spent on it by previous owners such as Barrick and Glencore between 2005 and 2014, including 587,000 m of drilling. The outcome of this previous investment is an in-situ mineral resource of 58 Mt at 2.62% Ni, containing more than 1.52 Mt of nickel, 190,000 t of copper and 120,000 t of cobalt. The Barrick-Glencore joint venture also outlined a mine plan in a draft feasibility study that looked to recover 49.3 Mt of ore at 2.69% nickel equivalent from the two primary orebodies – North and Tembo. Kabanga is in the process of updating this plan.

While the BHP transaction is for a total consideration of $50 million, with investments in both Kabanga Nickel ($40 million) and Lifezone ($10 million), future investment tranches in Kabanga Nickel have been agreed subject to certain conditions. This includes a second tranche of $50 million and the right for BHP to make a further investment in Kabanga Nickel subject to achieving certain agreed milestones.

The first tranche of $40 million will convert into an 8.9% equity stake in Kabanga Nickel (7.5% see-through interest in Tembo Nickel Corp) once approvals and conditions are met. Once invested and on conversion, the second tranche of $50 million will increase BHP’s equity stake in Kabanga Nickel to 17.8% (15% see-through interest in Tembo), thereby valuing the project at $658 million, post-money. Tembo Nickel is the joint venture owner of the project, owned 84% by Kabanga Nickel and 16% by the Government of Tanzania, set to undertake mining, processing and refining to Class 1 nickel with cobalt and copper co-products near the asset.

The investment into Kabanga Nickel from BHP will support an acceleration in the mine’s development, including an enhanced metallurgical drilling program (which has already started) to enable update of the definitive feasibility study and support the construction plans for the hydromet refinery. These studies are expected to be completed by the end of 2022. Site and infrastructure development is already underway. The investment will also support hiring and training of local Tanzanian talent.

The investment into Lifezone allows for new patent applications as well as R&D work that will further commercialise the Lifezone hydrometallurgical technology. Lifezone currently has patents granted in over 150 countries.

The current project development timeline anticipates first production in 2025. Output will ramp up to target a minimum annual production of 40,000 t of nickel, 6,000 t of copper and 3,000 t of cobalt.

Metso Outotec to supply equipment for Boliden’s Green Zinc Odda project

Metso Outotec says it has been awarded a contract for the delivery of key technology to the Boliden Odda zinc smelter expansion in western Norway.

Approximately 90% of the €150 million ($170 million) contract has been booked in the company’s Metals Q4/2021 orders received and the rest in Minerals Q4/2021 orders received.

With the expansion, Boliden Odda is planning to increase its annual production capacity of zinc metal from 200,000 t to 350,000 t. Several by-products will also be produced.

The project is called “Green Zinc Odda”, and its energy consumption is based on fossil-free energy.

Metso Outotec’s scope of delivery includes roasting and off-gas cleaning solutions and a sulphuric acid plant, with the OEM also supplying hydrometallurgical equipment and technology for calcine leaching, solid liquid separation, solution purification, as well as process and plant engineering and site services. The deliveries are set to take place in 2022-2024.

Jari Ålgars, President, Metals business area at Metso Outotec, said: “The Green Zinc Odda project paves the way for more sustainable zinc production and is yet another important milestone in the many years of collaboration between Boliden and Metso Outotec.”

Lifezone hydromet tech blueprint puts Kabanga Nickel in pole refining position

Kabanga Nickel is ready to put its ‘money where its technology is’ in the pursuit of production from a highly prospective nickel-copper-cobalt asset in Tanzania, according to Keith Liddell, Executive Chairman.

Having been granted access to a project that has had more than $290 million spent on it by previous owners such as Barrick Gold and Glencore between 2005 and 2014, including 587,000 m of drilling, the company is coming at the Kabanga project with a fresh set of eyes and a plan that aligns with the government’s in-country beneficiation requirements.

The outcome of this previous investment is an in-situ mineral resource of 58 Mt at 2.62% Ni, containing more than 1.52 Mt of nickel, 190,000 t of copper and 120,000 t of cobalt. This resource is in the process of being updated with the latest modelling software.

The Barrick-Glencore joint venture also outlined a mine plan in a draft feasibility study that looked to recover 49.3 Mt of ore at 2.69% nickel equivalent from the two primary orebodies – North and Tembo. Again, Kabanga is re-evaluating this strategy, having identified several opportunities to enhance project outcomes including a development plan that facilitates higher production rates and access to high-grade ore earlier in the mining schedule.

Yet, the biggest departure from the previous plans for Kabanga is the “mine to metal” concept that Liddell and Dr Mike Adams, Senior Vice President: Processing & Refining, have been marketing.

This is part of the reason why the Tanzanian Government signed a binding framework agreement with Kabanga Nickel earlier this year that resulted in a joint venture company called Tembo Nickel Corp (owned 84% by Kabanga Nickel and 16% by the Government of Tanzania) to undertake mining, processing and refining to Class 1 nickel with cobalt and copper co-products near the asset.

Unlike the plethora of smelter plans being drawn up in the likes of Indonesia and the Philippines – two other countries attempting to keep more ‘metal value’ in-country – Kabanga’s plan hinges on a hydrometallurgical refining route.

This isn’t a carbon copy of the high pressure acid leaching (HPAL) technology the industry is used to hearing about – most of the time for the wrong reasons. The hydrometallurgy Kabanga is talking about is more in keeping with the process Vale uses at Long Harbour in Canada, Adams pointed out.

“There’s hydrometallurgy and then there’s hydrometallurgy,” he told IM. “HPAL is incredibly different to the Lifezone hydrometallurgy we are proposing at Kabanga, which is dealing with sulphide concentrates. Our process is effectively 17% of the HPAL carbon footprint; HPAL has a much higher carbon footprint than smelting, let alone what we are proposing.

“Our technology comes with lower temperatures and pressures, and the materials of construction are nowhere near as exotic as HPAL. It is more economic and more environmentally friendly than both HPAL and smelting.”

The ‘Lifezone’ Adams mentioned is Lifezone Limited, a technology and development company established by Liddell to exclusively own and develop the patented rights to the Kell Process – a unique hydrometallurgical process. Although devised to treat platinum group metals and refractory gold ores without smelting or the use of cyanide, and with major energy savings, cost benefits and a significantly reduced environmental impact (CO2 and SO2) over conventional technologies, the Kabanga team is keen to draw from Lifezone’s experiences when it comes to devising the refining plan in Tanzania.

They and much of the South African platinum industry are looking at developments at Sedibelo Platinum’s Pilanesberg Platinum Mines (PPM) operation on the Bushveld Complex where a 110,000 t/y beneficiation plant employing the Kell Process is currently being constructed. This plant has the capacity to produce 320,000 oz/y of platinum group metals at the refinery end, with seven refined metal products set to be produced on site.

If Sedibelo, which Liddell is a shareholder of, can achieve such a feat, it will become the first South African PGM operation producing refined PGM, gold and base metal products on site. At the same time, this metal production would come with some 82% less energy consumption and the associated significant reduction in carbon emissions, plus improved recoveries and lower operating costs, than conventional off-site PGM smelting.

But, back to Tanzania, where the aim is to deploy hydromet technology with a specifically designed flowsheet to leach and refine the base metals. End products from the Kabanga refinery will be Class 1 nickel and cobalt metals with >99.95% purity readily saleable to customers worldwide, as well as A-grade copper cathode for the Tanzanian market, according to the company.

Not only is this different to conventional pyrometallurgical nickel sulphide smelting and refining – which, according to Liddell comes with around 13 t of CO2 emissions per tonne of Class 1 nickel metal, compared with the 4 t of CO2 emissions per tonne of nickel (Nickel Institute industry baseline numbers) with the Lifezone hydrometallurgical route – it also removes the need to transport and export concentrate long distances to European, North American or Asian smelters and refineries for further processing.

Such benefits and plans go some way to answering the questions around how Kabanga is holding a nickel-copper-cobalt asset that many battery metal investors and mining companies would be interested in.

Kabanga Nickel is putting Lifezone’s hydrometallurgy expertise to the test at the project in Tanzania

The majors might not be ready to offer up a plan featuring in-country beneficiation with new technology, but Kabanga and Lifezone are.

“As you know, the industry is very conservative – no-one wants to be first, they want to be second,” Liddell said. “As technology providers, we’re going to be first and second – first with the Kell Process plant in South Africa and second with the hydromet plant at Kabanga.

“We have ownership in those so, in effect, we are putting our money where our technology is. In a conservative industry, you have to do this.”

Liddell is right.

Take battery-electric vehicles or hard-rock cutting technology on the mobile equipment side of the mining business. The OEMs, to gain market traction, had to invest in the technology, build prototypes and mine-ready vehicles and then convince the miners to test them at their sites – most of the risk was held with the tech providers, not the miners.

While Lifezone will have to take on similar technology and financial risks for industry buy-in, all the billed benefits of its hydromet technology fit the mining industry ESG and productivity brief, making it a technology that has applications beyond Kabanga, Tanzania and nickel.

According to the company, it represents an architecture of several well-proven “breakthrough” hydromet process technologies – namely pressure oxidation of sulphide minerals, selective solvent extraction of metals and selective metal absorbents – that realise the value of all waste streams, both in-process and by constructing local, regional and global circular economies.

It comes with higher metal recoveries, lower costs, lower environmental impact, a less complex flowsheet, shorter production pipeline and reduced value lockup for those companies employing it. This means metal production comes sooner, more metal is produced at a lower cost and with a lower footprint and less potentially payable metal is left in the waste stream due to a lack of viable processing options.

The main unit operations at Kabanga are likely to include aqueous pressure oxidation in an autoclave to dissolve the sulphides and remove the base metals; copper refining by SX-EW; iron removal to purify the solution for cobalt and nickel refining; cobalt refining by SX-EW; and nickel refining by SX-EW. This could result in 40,000-50,000 t/y of nickel metal as cathode, powder or briquette, alongside 8,000 t of copper cathode and 3,500 t/y of cobalt cathode or rounds.

The refinery blueprint – designed in a modular manner to bolt on additional process trains, according to Liddell and Adams – could see Tanzania become the multi-metals processing hub it has eyes on, processing material from across East Africa and retaining more value in-country. Down the line, it could align itself even closer with the battery metals sector by producing precursor products that gigafactories are calling out for.

Beyond Kabanga Nickel, Liddell sees potential for applying this hydromet concept at existing smelting operations to lower the footprint and operating cost of operations.

“The hydromet process uses anywhere between one fifth and one third of a smelter’s electricity input,” he explained. “You can replace a 50 MW electric smelter with a 10 MW hydromet plant. At the same time, the process allows refiners to get more metal out of the concentrate. This means the lower energy draw and increased revenues can pay back the money invested in a hydromet plant.”

For operations looking to incorporate more renewables, this reduced power draw is a major selling point.

Similarly, for countries like South Africa looking to retain or grow its metal production blueprint while weaning themselves off coal amid routine power blackouts, the concept stacks up.

“In South Africa, you could end up producing the same amount of metals off a much lower power base, and it’s then much cheaper to green up that electricity,” Liddell said.

The potential is vast, and Kabanga Nickel has an 18-month program currently ahead of it to start development.

This one-and-a-half-year plan follows the recent issue of a mining licence that allows the company to get on the ground – symbolised by the drill rig (pictured above) that is about to start turning on site.

Over this timeframe, the plan is to update the existing feasibility study numbers and bolt a refinery module onto it, explore avenues with metallurgical drilling to boost the concentrate grade and re-work the mine design to access the two orebodies simultaneously. The latter is one of the ways the team could access more value sooner in the production process.

All of this could set the company up to start production from Kabanga in 2024-2025, 1-2 years after the Kell Process goes live at Sedibelo’s operation and in time for a further run up in battery metals demand and, most likely, more governments legislating for in-country beneficiation.

Kabanga Nickel and Lifezone’s plans could end up being a future tried-and-tested blueprint.

Alexander Mining finds buyer for MetaLeach mineral processing tech business

A hive of corporate activity is brewing at Alexander Mining, with the AIM-listed company set to complete a reverse takeover of eLight Group Holdings Ltd and sell off its mineral processing technology business, MetaLeach Ltd.

Back in September, the board of Alexander announced it had completed a review of its operations and concluded it was no longer in shareholders’ interests for the company to “continue to provide financial support indefinitely for its mineral processing technology activities”. It said it would look to dispose of MetaLeach and change the company’s business strategy in the wake of this review, becoming an “AIM Rule 15 cash shell” looking to complete a suitable reverse takeover in accordance with AIM Rules.

Today, Alexander said it was in advanced negotiations to acquire the entire issued share capital of eLight, an “energy efficiency as a service” company with operations in the UK and Ireland, which provides commercial customers with immediate energy and cost reductions with zero upfront investment.

The company also intends to seek Alexander shareholder approval at the general meeting for the disposal of MetaLeach, as well as the entire issued share capital of MetaLeach Ltd.

MetaLeach was formed to enable the commercialisation of its proprietary hydrometallurgical mineral processing technologies. It owns the intellectual property to two ambient temperature, ambient pressure, hydrometallurgical technologies, namely AmmLeach® (patents pending) and HyperLeach® (patents pending).

“These technologies are environmentally friendly, cost effective processes for the extraction of base metals from amenable ore deposits and concentrates allowing the production of high value products at the mine site (ie metal powder or sheets),” the company said.

Alan Clegg, Non-Executive Chairman of Alexander, said: “I am delighted that Alexander has been able to advance into rapid execution of the new strategy announced to the benefit of our shareholders. Simultaneously, having found a strong mining industry buyer for the company’s MetaLeach business, as well as an attractive acquisition opportunity for the remaining shell, is fortuitous and satisfying for the board.”

SGS Minerals on board with Glencore Technology’s Albion Process

Glencore Technology and SGS Minerals have announced an agreement and certification that has seen SGS’s Lakefield site in Ontario, Canada, become the latest laboratory to be certified to conduct amenability level Albion Process™ testwork.

SGS, one of the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification companies, has become only the third certified provider of Albion Process testwork, joining Core Resources in Australia and TOMS Institute in Russia, Glencore Technology said.

“SGS is a highly trusted provider of laboratory testwork services and becomes a valuable supplier to Glencore Technology, expanding testwork capability throughout the Americas,” the company said. The lab successfully performed Albion Process testwork on a gold/pyrite concentrate and a copper/gold concentrate as part of this qualification.

The Albion Process is emerging as a competitive proposition in hydrometallurgy, using a combination of ultrafine grinding and oxidative leaching at atmospheric pressure to help extract base or precious metals. The process sees the sulphides in base of precious metal concentrate feeds oxidised and valuable metals liberated, with the economic metals recovered by conventional downstream processing, according to Glencore Technology.

The SGS testwork certification is important to both companies because the correct performance of the testwork is key to the successful full-scale implementation of the Albion Process on which performance guarantees are based, Glencore Technology explained.

“While the number of certified laboratories will expand in other key geographic areas, it will be kept to a relatively small number to maintain quality,” the company added.

Glencore Technology’s Mike Hourn, said: “We are delighted to see SGS Lakefield join the family of laboratories with the capability to perform Albion Process amenability testwork. They’re good at what they do and SGS represents a significant presence for us in the Americas and their network is highly valued by Glencore Technology.”

SGS Lakefield’s Niels Verbaan, said: “SGS is pleased to be accredited by Glencore Technology on Albion Process™ Testwork and looks forward to working with its clients to provide an objective opinion on the available process options.”

Independent analysis presented at the Extraction 2018 conference suggested the Albion Process has much lower capital cost than traditional leaching technologies like pressure oxidation (POx) plants (Clary et al, 2018). It also tolerates a more variable feed and lower grade to work where others may not, according to Glencore Technology. “It can therefore make some projects feasible and profitable where alternative technologies were unable to,” the company said, adding that there are six plants in operation globally treating refractory gold and copper concentrates.

The Lakefield site of SGS Minerals is its centre of excellence for metallurgical and mineralogical testing in the Americas, offering both laboratory and pilot plant services.