Mining giant BHP Billiton has unveiled a new R1-billion furnace at Samancor Manganese's Metalloys smelter in Meyerton, south of Johannesburg, as the company moves to support the government's drive to increase metals beneficiation in South Africa.
According to Engineering News, the so-called M14 furnace is the latest of four large furnaces at Metalloys, one of the world's largest manganese smelters, and will allow BHP Billiton to beneficiate close to 30% of the manganese ore it mines locally.
BHP Billiton said on Wednesday that the furnace, the largest new investment in the country's manganese industry, had increased Metalloys' production capacity by 81 MVA. The furnace is designed to produce 120 000 kt of high carbon ferro manganese per annum, and includes improvements to ensure increased reliability and pollution control.
The furnace will also contribute additional carbon monoxide (CO) gas to the onsite power generation plant for additional power output, thus raising Metalloys' energy self-sufficiency level.
According to Engineering News, BHP Billiton has a 60% share in Samancor Manganese, with the remaining 40% held by Anglo American.
Tom Schutte, global president of BHP Billiton Manganese, said that more than 80 percent of the world's high grade manganese resources were in the Northern Cape. "Every one of the major and minor commodities of the world today has some degree of South African influence," he added.
Speaking at Wednesday's unveiling, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said South Africa was by far the wealthiest mineral jurisdiction in the world.
While the country had significant proven reserves of manganese, exploitation of the mineral had not been reflective of its development potential, she said. "The traditional focus on mining and exporting of un-beneficiated minerals can't continue.
"The government's industrialisation policy calls for a paradigm shift in mineral development, strategic investment in assets to maximise long-term growth beneficiation projects, enhanced value of exports, increased sources for consumption of local content, and creation of opportunities for sustainable jobs."
Shabangu commended BHP Billiton for its investment, adding that mining should be about creating jobs and contributing to skills development.