According to The Namibian, Vedanta Zinc International, the parent company of Skorpion Zinc Mine, plans to invest N$6,5 billion into setting up a refinery at the zinc mine.
According to the environmental impact assessment report done by the mine, the existing Skorpion Zinc plant was constructed to process oxide ore and in order to process sulphide zinc ore, the plant must be modified to convert the sulphide ore to oxide ore, which can then be processed in the existing plant.
The Namzinc Refinery Conversion project would enable Skorpion Zinc Mine to treat sulphides and oxides to produce the refined metal. Once the existing refinery is modified, it will facilitate the processing of zinc sulphide concentrate along with the oxide ore until the end of the mine’s lifespan, after which zinc sulphide can be treated until approximately 2032.
The mine will source the zinc sulphide concentrate from Black Mountain and Gamsberg in the Northern Cape, South Africa. New sulphide deposits discovered in the Rosh Pinah region and the possibility of importing concentrates via the Lüderitz port make the project viable.
“Significant work has been put into the refinery conversion project, including the finalisation of the bankable feasibility study. Once construction is completed, the refinery will process zinc concentrate from Gamsberg South Africa and add value in Namibia and export the refined product. Not only in South Africa but elsewhere in the Southern African Development Community and beyond,” said company spokesperson Nora Ndopu.
The feasibility study conducted in 2015 said the lifespan of the mine would have ended in 2019 due to the depletion of the existing oxide resources at the Skorpion Zinc Mine. Mine management decided to first extend the life of Pit 112, as a life extension project. This, however, resulted in significant challenges and unforeseen geotechnical instabilities in the open pit.
As a consequence, Skorpion Zinc has been under care and maintenance since May last year, forcing the company to review its long-term strategy.
“The successful execution of this project will see Namibia become the only country in Africa to produce refined SHG (Special High Grade) zinc. This will make Namibia a net exporter of zinc metal,” said Ndopu.
“Vedanta Zinc International is currently in discussions with government and other key stakeholders to ensure the availability of power at affordable rates. VZI is ready to start execution on the ground, subject to the finalisation of power in a timely manner,” said Ndopu.
The N$6,5-billion investment will go towards critical additions into the managing infrastructure such as bulk handling and storage of zinc sulphide concentrate, the construction of a roasting circuit with gas-cleaning plant and gas recovery acid plant, including the installation and integration of a new calcine leach circuit to facilitate the sulphide conversion part.