Vanchem is a primary vanadium-processing facility with a beneficiation plant producing vanadium pentoxide, ferrovanadium and vanadium chemicals. It is capable of producing vanadium trioxide. Vanchem uses the salt roast beneficiation process, similar to that used at Vametco, and is currently producing circa 80 mtV per month using a single kiln.
The plant consists of the following components:
- A rail siding which was historically used to transport ore to Vanchem;
- A milling and concentrating (magnetic separation) facility for the treatment of magnetite;
- A roast/leach configuration with three kilns;
- An ammonium poly-vanadate precipitation plant which will be replaced with a new ammonium metavanadate plant;
- A de-ammoniation/vanadium trioxide plant;
- Vanadium pentoxide flake production facilities;
- An electric smelting facility for conversion of vanadium trioxide to ferrovanadium;
- An aluminothermic smelting facility, for conversion of vanadium pentoxide into ferrovanadium; and
- A vanadium chemical plant producing various vanadium chemical products.
Vanchem is located at Ferrobank Industrial Park in Emalahleni Local Municipality, Mpumalanga Province, in South Africa. It has been operating since the late 1970s, processing a combination of ore feed from the Mapochs vanadium mine (“Mapochs”) and slag from Highveld. Highveld continued to supply ore to Vanchem from its Mapochs mine in Limpopo until it closed in 2015.
Without guaranteed ore supply from Mapochs, Vanchem was forced into Business Rescue in November 2015 with the Vanchem plant being put into care and maintenance later that year. The plant was partially re-started in the third quarter of 2018, after Vanchem was able to procure magnetite ore from third parties. The ferrovanadium facilities are located at the Highveld site and are situated approximately 10 km from the Vanchem plant.
Vanchem has secured sufficient ore supply from third parties to support current levels of production until the first half of 2021. The Company retains the optionality to supply magnetite concentrates from Vametco to the Vanchem.
- Step 1: Crushing, milling and magnetic separation to produce a magnetite concentrate with average grades of approximately 1.65 % V2O5 in-magnetite;
- Step 2: Salt-roasting of concentrate. The concentrate is roasted with sodium salts in a kiln at approximately 1,150°C to form a water-soluble sodium vanadate material;
- Step 3: Leaching and purification, involving dissolution of roasted vanadium concentrate in water, purification and precipitation of vanadium through the addition of ammonium sulphate, followed by drying and then processing in a reducing environment to produce an ammonium metavanadate (‘AMV’) product;
- Step 4: The AMV is de-ammoniated and melted to produce vanadium pentoxide flakes – a primary product. The AMV is also used in other processes to produce a spectrum of vanadium chemicals; and
- Step 5: vanadium pentoxide is reduced by aluminium in the aluminothermic process in the presence of iron to produce ferrovanadium – a primary product.