New chrome mine owner plans to target the foundry sand and chemical concentrate markets

The new owner of a chrome mine in North West province that was placed on care and maintenance following the COVID-19 lockdown, plans to grow production in a phased, sustainable manner that will ultimately lead to the creation of more than 1 000 jobs, Mining Weekly reports.

The international privately owned Clover Alloys South Africa, which has bought control of the Rustenburg chrome mine previously owned by specialty chemicals company Lanxess, is targeting the foundry sand and chemical concentrate markets and does not intend supplying chrome to the ferrochrome industry.

As a chrome concentrates supplier, Clover Alloys has acquired 74% of the asset in a deal that is expected to be completed by year-end.

“This transaction is a significant step forward for Clover Alloys’ growth plan and we are confident that it will lead to superior returns and opportunities to all stakeholders involved,” Clover Alloys CEO Philip Kotze stated.

In August, the globally-listed Lanxess announced the divestment of its chrome chemicals business to the Chinese company, Brother Enterprises. In addition to supplying chrome ore to its former South African factories as a feedstock, Lanxess exported the bulk of the chrome ore it produced and Chrome Alloys intends doing the same.

On the decision of the South African government to impose a tax on the exportation of chrome ore from South Africa in order to shield the struggling ferrochrome industry, which is under existential threat, Kotze stated: “We do not believe that the tax will improve the viability of the South African chrome mines at all as it will have a negative impact on the chrome prices i.e. end-users will expect producers to absorb some or all of it.”

Like Lanxess, Chrome Alloys intends to continue to export the bulk of the mine’s chrome ore. The company also values the past relationship that Lanxess has had with Brother Enterprises and will endeavour to continue to supply the Chinese owner of Lanxess’ KwaZulu-Natal chrome chemical factories.

The chrome ore Lanxess mined in Rustenburg was processed further at its former chrome chemicals plants in Newcastle and Merebank, near Durban. At the Newcastle plant, the ore was processed into sodium dichromate and chromic acid. Sodium dichromate was then shipped to the Merebank plant, where final chrome chemical production took place for use as chrome tanning salts in the global leather tanning industry.

Clover Alloys’ initial plant has operated in the Benoni area since 2006. The company expanded in 2015 and incorporated a larger plant in the heart of the western Bushveld Complex, close to Rustenburg. This Rietfontein operation has a three-stage crushing plant that allows it to treat any form of run-of-mine feedstock.

The washing facility produces foundry, chemical and metallurgical grade concentrates. The chrome sand concentrates are sold domestically and also exported to countries including China, the US, Europe, Japan, Korea and Brazil.

It also recovers chrome sand from foundry waste, generated by various foundries in the industrial areas around Johannesburg. In this way it saves on waste dumping and provides an environmentally beneficial waste regeneration service. The primary focus of Clover Alloys is on the specialist high-grade chromite sands and concentrates for local and global markets.