Mining Indaba likely catalyst for Silicon Corridor
In Africa, Silicon Mountain is the entrepreneurial ecosystem within Fako, Cameroon, while in Canada, the Technology Triangle is home to the Communitech Hub start-up incubator. In Japan, it is Kansai Science City.
At the heart of these silicon tech hubs lies the source that allows connectivity to happen - silicon metalloid.
African Quartz Mining and Mintek, a national mineral research organisation, discovered that ultra-pure quartz is used in contemporary high-tech applications such as electronic industry, optical fibres, silicon cells for photovoltaic systems and semiconductors.
Silicon metalloid is produced from lumpy silica (quartz) (Si02) that is carbo-thermically reduced in arc-furnaces at high temperatures.
The three principal uses of silicon metalloid are in the metallurgical, chemical and electronics industries. Silicon is a common additive in aluminium casting alloys as it enhances fluidity, increases resistance to hot-cracking and improves pressure tightness.
Silicon is also used to produce silane chemicals from which more than 1 000 silicone resins, lubricants, anti-foaming agents, plastomers and water-repellent compounds are derived.
Electronic applications and speciality applications include photovoltaic cells for solar energy conversion and semiconductors, superconductors and integrated circuit technologies (silicon chips). The semiconductor and chemicals industry have shown significant growth with silicon metal consumption increasing at an annual rate of 5 to 8percent.
African Quartz and Mintek started research to explore the possibility of mining and beneficiation quartz to silicon with the aim to manufacture photovoltaic cells and modules (solar panels) to generate electricity in the Northern Cape. The industrialisation of silicon got a boost when the Department of Trade and Industry designated Upington as a potential Special Economic Zone (SEZ), with tax incentives.
Thanks to sunny days, Upington experiences the ideal level of solar irradiation-power per unit area received from the sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation for solar energy production. The area enjoys optimal levels of both direct normal irradiance and global horizontal irradiance. The Upington SEZ targets mineral beneficiation and renewable energy, focusing on solar component manufacturing and high-value micro technology.
To amplify the drive for local photovoltaic cell and module manufacturing and industrialisation, President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced: “We are now embracing the fact that there are those companies, even households who want to generate their own electricity. I realised that as a nation, we cannot stop technology and we cannot stop the future from arriving.”
African Quartz will attend the Mining Indaba 2020 and convince investors that the quartz/silicon project mineral beneficiation, renewable energy with the focus on solar component manufacturing and high-value micro technology of African Quartz is an ideal investment for exceptional returns, which supports locally manufacture renewable photovoltaic and growth prospects.
African Quartz is interested in collaborating with the government to establish the Silicon Corridor from Upington and Boegoe Bay, thereby radically transforming the Northern Cape economy.
Dr Dennis George is the founding director of Difeme Holdings Group and the chairperson of African Quartz.