Nyanza Light Metals chief executive Donovan Chimhandamba Picture: Supplied
Nyanza Light Metals chief executive Donovan Chimhandamba Picture: Supplied

Construction of R4.5bn chemical plant in Richards Bay could start in July

By Lyse Comins Time of article published May 28, 2020

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Durban – Construction of a R4.5 billion chemical plant in Richards Bay could start as soon as July, provided the national Covid-19 lockdown has eased to level 1.

Nyanza Light Metals chief executive Donovan Chimhandamba said this week that a call for tenders for the construction of the pilot phase of the development would be issued as soon as the country moved to level 2.

Chimhandamba said the plant, which had been allocated 67 hectares in Phase 1 F of the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ), would annually produce about 80 000 tons of titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment, which is used in coatings and paint.

He said about 30% of production would supply the local market as the only local producer, freeing the country from imports, while the balance would be exported to Europe, the rest of Africa and the Far East.

The project is expected to create about 1 200 construction jobs and 550 permanent jobs, including 300 skilled positions, upon completion.

Chimhandamba said it had taken around 10 years to bring the project to the construction phase following local and international tests using raw materials.

He said the team had used waste titanium slag which had been stockpiled at Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium in Witbank since 1965.

There is about 45 million tons of slag, which contains about 30% TiO2 and equates to about 200 years of production.

“We started it from scratch and had no idea whether we’d be able to do it or not. We were trying to use raw material we’d never used before and we piloted it to prove we could do it,” he said.

“The conventional titanium sources are rutile (85% TiO2) from Richards Bay Minerals and ilmenite (40-60% TiO2) from the likes of Kenmare Resources and other miners.

“Our plant will blend the Evraz Highveld Steel Waste Slag with the conventional sources to achieve various pigment grades as required by a specific customer,” he said.

Chimhandamba said the use of the slag would provide the firm with a competitive advantage as the cost of the raw material was basically the logistics expense to transport it to the plant.

He said the firm initially ran tests with Mintek SA before running larger pilot trials with Avertana in New Zealand.

He said phase one of the wholly South African-owned project would include the building of a 10 000m² Technical Services Centre which would produce 150 tons a year for customer product trials.

The centre would create about 40 permanent jobs and 80 to 100 construction jobs.

Construction on phase two of the project, which includes the building of the main plant, was expected to begin in late 2021.

He said the plant would produce just under 1% of the global volumes and was expected to generate revenue of around $250 million (R4.3 billion) a year.

KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, said work on the RBIDZ would begin as soon as the country moved to level 1.

“Investors are interested in RBIDZ because the entity shares its borders with three neighbouring African states of Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland, thereby facilitating trade with these nations,” she said.

She said other benefits were strong road and rail links through neighbouring countries, and expansive port and airport infrastructure.

“As part of the economic recovery plan, we’re supporting the RBIDZ to stimulate these sectors and ultimately grow the provincial economy. 

"The entity is working with the private sector and forming partnerships with neighbouring provinces and other countries in the SADC region.”

The Mercury

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