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Mintek Showcases World-Class Solutions at the International Heavy Minerals Conference 2023

Against the backdrop of Balito's coastal charm, the International Heavy Minerals Conference took place from 21 to 22 August 2023. Serving as an important platform, the conference aimed to address the significant challenges faced by the mining and heavy minerals processing industry, with a focus on climate change and the energy crisis.

This year's conference saw the active participation of prominent organisations and institutions, including Mintek. With their extensive research and innovative technologies, Mintek has been at the forefront of developing sustainable solutions for the mining sector, aligning seamlessly with the conference's objectives of tackling environmental concerns while advancing the industry.

The conference provided an arena for leading industry experts, researchers, and professionals to discuss the critical prevalent issues affecting the sector. Notably, the conversations revolved around the need to tackle the consequences of climate change and the impact of the ongoing energy crisis on the mineral sector.

Presenters included the Mintek team comprising Senior Engineer, Dr Rasoul Hassanalizadeh, Head of Technology Development, Dr Xolisa Goso, and Senior Scientist, Ms Sanele Nkosi. They delivered presentations that delved into rare earth elements, the innovative solid-state reduction of ilmenite micro-pellets, and the exploitation of  secondary resources from slag dumps.

These presentations shed light on innovative research and development efforts undertaken by Mintek that have the potential to reshape the industry's energy and sustainability trajectory.

Dr Goso's presentation focused on the Mintek patented "Improved ilmenite" (ImprilTM ) process. The process involves the manufacturing and pre-reduction of ilmenite pellets in synthesis gas before smelting in an electric arc furnace.

He said, "Mintek has taken the approach towards countering risks associated with the energy and carbon-intensive ilmenite smelting industry through a significant improvement of carbon emissions and energy efficiency of the conventional process."

Furthermore, he said, "The ImprilTM process is in line with the global themes. Some experts and new industrialists, especially the South African industrialists, expressed a desire to further engage with Mintek on the technology.

The International Heavy Minerals Conference 2023 showcased the power of collaboration and knowledge-sharing. As the industry grapples with global challenges, such platforms play a vital role in driving the mining and heavy minerals processing industry towards a sustainable and resilient future.

Dr Hassanalizadeh, who presented on the high-value addition aspects of rare earths extraction, noted a number of opportunities emanating from the events of the conference that can be exploited by Mintek. “The final day included a technical visit to the largest heavy minerals extraction facilities in the world, the Rio Tinto's facilities located in Richards Bay, offering deep learnings into mineral processing and pyrometallurgical techniques. The visit unearthed challenges ripe for R&D exploration at Mintek, paving the way for potential collaborations and synergies between our organisations”, he remarked.