In September, the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) held a Hydrometallurgy Colloquium at the Glenhove Conference Centre in Johannesburg. The objective was to enhance knowledge of the separation and removal of metal impurities from solution, focussing on solvent extraction, ion exchange, precipitation, cementation and membrane separation technologies. A number of industry experts presented on the fundamental chemistry behind each of these technologies, followed by presentations of a number of case studies to illustrate the industrial application of the different impurity removal technologies under consideration.
Uranium is a key impurity currently in the spotlight amongst cobalt producers in the DRC. With this in mind, Doug Alexander (Head of Metallurgy at ERG Africa) presented a case study on the commissioning and ramp-up of the circuit at Metalkol RTR, ERGA’s tailings retreatment project in the DRC . The study looks at the use of ion exchange as a conventional technology, and the more novel approach utilising phosphoric acid addition as a means to control the deportment of uranium to the cobalt hydroxide product.
More than 50 delegates registered for the colloquium, representing a good cross-section of mining companies, engineering houses, equipment suppliers and university students. Female delegates outnumbered their male counterparts, to the satisfaction of the colloquium organisers, as a fair illustration of the growing proportion of female engineers entering the South African mining industry.