Pyrometallurgy is a branch of extractive metallurgy that involves high-temperature processes to extract and refine metals, alloys or mattes from primary ores and/or secondary resources. Pyrometallurgical processes are often complicated, high-risk and generally energy-intensive as the operating temperatures often exceed 1 500°C. The containment of liquid slags and metals at these elevated temperatures requires specialised know-how and equipment, as well as access to energy, often electrical energy. The complex nature of pyrometallurgical processes means that demonstration of a process at pilot scale is an important technology de-risking step.
Equipped with state-of-the-art pilot scale demonstration facilities unparalleled in scale, complexity and versatility, the Pyrometallurgy Discipline at Mintek provides high temperature research and development services across a wide variety of commodities. The Discipline offers a wide range of testing and demonstration services, from bench-scale (10g up to 5kg sample-scale) to pilot scale testing and demonstration services (100kg up to 10 tons capacity), coupled with unique capabilities to demonstrate AC/DC electric furnace smelting processes continuously at scale up to 3MW. Over the years, the Discipline has built a solid track record in the development and commercialisation of electric arc smelting processes, primarily the DC plasma arc smelting technology. With numerous commercial installations around the world, the DC plasma arc smelting technology has been demonstrated and commercialised across various commodities, such as in the smelting chromite, ilmenite and nickel laterites, battery recycling, and slag cleaning to recover nickel and cobalt, and more recently, in the recovery of precious metals from spent autocatalysts.
To support the testing and demonstration services, Pyrometallurgy Discipline also offers tailor-made desktop and theoretical modelling studies, including process and flowsheet modelling, mass and energy balances, and process optimization and troubleshooting.