Zim-linked group in R4 billion project

HARARE - A consotium led by Arkein Industrial Holdings (Arkein) and Mauritius-based DBF Capital (DBF) is spearheading the construction of a Rand 4 billion (about $300 million) titanium oxide plant in South Africa (SA)'s Richards Bay industrial zone to feed the region’s paint market.

While the former is headed by Zimbabwean-born businessman Donovan Chimhandamba, the latter is owned by serial entrepreneurs and the ex-African Banking Corporation founding trio of Doug Munatsi, Francis Dzanya and Bhekithemba Moyo.

“This project marks a major milestone in the development of the titanium mineral value chain, not only in South Africa but in Africa as a whole since Huntsman announced the closure of its Umbogontwini plant which resulted in significant job losses,” the Arkein boss and chief executive of Johannesburg-based Nyanza Light Metals (Nyanza) said.

Chimhandamba said they would be utilising waste steel slag from the Evraz Highveld (Evraz) and Vanadium plants that has been stockpiling at its Witbank operations since 1965.

The Witbank slag, feasibility studies show, has some 45 million tonnes of owe and equating to nearly 200 years of project life.

With titanium dioxide pigment being the mostly used white pigment in the world - accounting for about 70 percent of the global market - it is also used in the production of coatings, cosmetics, foods, some papers and plastics due to its unique opacifying and whitening capabilities.

And experts say universal demand for this key industrial commodity is estimated at six million-plus tonnes, equating to some $15 billion, with the paints and coatings sector accounting for more than 57 percent of supply.

In 2011, titanium dioxide pigment prices reached $4,300 per tonne.

SA, meanwhile, consumes around 35 000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of titanium pigment, mainly in the paint manufacturing business or sector.

Thus the Nyanza project will produce 50 000 tonnes of titanium dioxide pigment per annum, which will be sold locally, exported across Africa and the Middle East.

According to company officials, the transcontinental agreements between Nyanza and its partners followed a successful pre-feasibility study - coupled with piloting analyses - conducted between 2015, and 2017 by the global parties.

As it is, it is hoped that nearly 550 permanent and 1,200 indirect jobs would be created when the plant is fully operational, and 800 being created during construction of the huge Richards Bay plant.

While construction or building of the factory is expected to commence in 2018 - with production scheduled to start in 2020 - the project anticipates bringing in new technology to SA and help the government’s industrialisation programme as well as efforts to add value to the South African mining sector, and general processing value chain.

Avertana, which has developed a proprietary process to extract titanium from the waste steel slag, refines titanium as well as other industrial minerals and chemicals from steel waste, with a lower carbon footprint than existing processes and with minimal residual waste.

And Chimhandamba said that with the New Zealand technological processes, Nyanza will also produce aluminium sulphate, magnesium sulphate and gypsum as co-products.

“The overall manufacturing process is novel and unique and will be a world first. This is largely because conventional processes use purer feed stocks such as rutile and ilmenite, which have titanium content ranging from 50 percent to 96 percent while Nyanza’s feed stock has a TiO2 content of 32 percent or less," the youthful engineer and investor said.

“The focus of the feasibility studies has been to develop a unique process and demonstrate that we could use this waste steel slag and produce a world-class grade pigment,” Chimhandamba said.

About six years ago, Nyanza appointed Hatch - a leading engineering, procurement and construction company - to perform scoping, and conceptual studies on the possibility of extracting titanium from the Evraz and Vanadium dumps, and turning it into a highly-valuable and sought-after product.

“...Nyanza has produced titanium dioxide pigment at a pilot scale and the economic, and financial modeling shows that (it) will be a low-cost producer... as it is using a waste material compared to the expensive conventional sources of titanium dioxide,” Chimhandamba said.

Thus, successful implementation of the project would result in Africa having access to manufacturing technology predominantly used in the American and European markets as well as recycling of materials to generate other high-value products, among other things.

Comments (1)

Handei mwana waMunetsi! you and your colleagues have got my, and I can safely say, Zimbabwe's best wishes in your project.

Dopori - 14 April 2017

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