Vanchem is a primary vanadium-processing facility with a beneficiation plant. It is located at Ferrobank Industrial Park in Emalahleni Local Municipality, Mpumalanga Province, in South Africa. It produces vanadium pentoxide, ferrovanadium and vanadium chemicals and is capable of producing vanadium trioxide. Vanchem uses the salt-roast beneficiation process, similar to that used at Vametco.
The Upper Seam portion of the Vametco resource (“The Upper Seam Project”) has been earmarked as the near-term source of feedstock for Vanchem, to replace the ore stockpile acquired with the plant while the Mokopane project is being developed. The source of the ore will be the Upper Seam reserve and stockpile, which has a V2O5 grade in magnetite of 1.76% and magnetite content of 65% in ore, superior to previous third-party suppliers. This will be upgraded to 80-85% magnetite in ore with a mass yield of 80%, using the temporary ore processing unit.
With a reserve base of approximately 0.9 Mt of ore, the Upper Seam Project, will supply Vanchem with a significant proportion of its ore requirement for 18 months and has the ability to supply 34 kt of ore per month commencing in Q3 2021, removing the necessity of relying exclusively on third-party sources of ore over this period. The Upper Seam Project resource has similar mineralogy to the current ore used at Vanchem, and tests conducted to date have proven its suitability for processing at Vanchem.
This will be achieved by installing a temporary ore processing unit, which will avail additional crushing capacity to Vametco on a demand basis and have dry magnetic separation capabilities. The initiative will ensure that Vanchem has sufficient competitively-priced ore feedstock (in line with, or better than, third-party suppliers) in the short to medium term, with no significant capital expenditure requirements. In addition, with an overall Upper Seam resource base of 16 Mt the potential to extend this particular supply beyond the initial 18 months exists and is being investigated accordingly. Vanchem has a short to medium term strategy of sourcing feedstock, ahead of the Mokopane mine becoming its primary supplier, as follows:
- Source ore from the Upper Seam at Vametco; and/or
- Procuring ore from third parties when prices are more competitive when compared to the Upper Seam costs and have operational and/or blending advantages. Quantities of third-party ore have been procured and additional opportunities are being considered.
- 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 ~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.