Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
BERGH, J.P.; FALCON, R.M.S. and FALCON, L.M.. Techno-economic impact of optimized low-grade thermal coal export production through beneficiation modelling. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2013, vol.113, n.11, pp. 817-824. ISSN 2411-9717.
The advent of low-quality export coal demand has brought a new range of possibilities to the South African coal industry. Products that traditionally were only of value to the domestic or combustion industry sectors now have the potential to be exported, with only minor amounts of upgrading required through beneficiation. Comparatively high steam-coal export prices can be obtained for low-quality export coal, which enhances the economic feasibility of expanding low-quality thermal coal exports. There are, however, increasing concerns about the feasibility of lower quality thermal coal exports and the broader implications. These concerns relate to the environmental impact of low-quality thermal coal production for export and the inherent threat to the security of domestic thermal coal supply in South Africa. Against this background, this paper serves to explain the extended value chain in the production of export coal. The technical and economic advantages and disadvantages of low-grade exports versus coal production for domestic use are evaluated. The value chain estimation is calculated by the beneficiation modelling and characterization of two coals. Based on the value estimation, the low-grade export production scenario, and finally the modelling of potential pollutant distribution, are described.
Keywords : coal beneficiation; techno-economics; thermal coal; dense medium processing; dry processing; fine coal processing; environmental impact.