The research, if successful, could pave the way for a new zinc refinery which will be ideally located at Saldanha Bay in South Africa


The research on new zinc refining processes will be carried out at the University of Cape Town. (Credit: Chemicalinterest at English Wikipedia)

The International Zinc Association (IZA) Africa Desk has received a funding boost for studying the feasibility of new zinc refining processes.

The research for developing a chemical engineering solution is expected to help South Africa meet its demand for refined zinc, while using domestically produced ore and concentrates.

IZA Africa Desk said that if the research is successful, then a new zinc refinery will be ideally located at Saldanha Bay, a South African harbour. Saldanha Bay is an industrial development zone (IDZ) and is near a major refined zinc user, said the association.

IZA Africa Desk spokesperson Simon Norton said: “The funding has been secured from within South Africa. The sponsors are very keen to see that we can develop our own capability within South Africa to produce special high-grade refined zinc and at the same time support fundamental chemical engineering research, while developing postgraduate research.”

Vedanta South Africa, which is an IZA member, and Duferco Steel Processing, which is engaged in galvanizing steel in Saldanha Bay are taking part in the research project in the role of industrial sponsors.

The research will be undertaken at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in its Department of Chemical Engineering. It will be focused on developing and understanding novel refining processes for considerably decreasing the external power input compared to conventional pyrometallurgical processes.

IZA Africa Desk said that the approach will enable the production of special high grade (SHG) refined zinc that is economically viable. Ore usage could be maximised further by producing refined by-products like rare earth elements and silver, said the association.

Vedanta South Africa will be sponsoring a desktop study of a broad range of zinc processes, while Duferco Steel Processing will fund laboratory-scale research to be done on zinc process chemistry.

The research will explore the in-principle feasibility of a novel flowsheet for production of refined zinc and recovery of by-products from domestic ore concentrate materials. The emphasis of the study will be on reduced and/or renewable energy input and lowered carbon and environmental footprints.