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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X


COCKBURN, G.. Challenges and successes at the Nkomati Nickel JV: pit-to product process improvements. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2014, vol.114, n.5, pp.365-374. ISSN 2411-9717.

Nkomati Nickel JV exploits the ores of the Uitkomst Complex near Machadodorp in the Waterval Boven district in South Africa's Mpumalanga Province. Due to factors such as the remote location, stellar growth in production, opencast mining methods, and ore characteristics, a number of innovative processing options were selected. Nkomati has undertaken numerous initiatives over the last few years to improve plant running times, metallurgical performance, and operational profitability. Great emphasis has been placed on effectiveness of management control systems. A number of initiatives such as short interval control and time-in-state metrics have been implemented. A focus on improvement on availability and asset utilization of key items of equipment has been particularly effective. While the ores are remarkably similar to the Merensky and UG2 reefs, the relatively high base metal sulphide content and mineralogical characteristics make metallurgical treatment somewhat different to the ores of the Bushveld Complex. The low head grades and flotation kinetics distinguish Nkomati from other base metal operations. Numerous milling and flotation optimization initiatives have resulted in dramatic improvements in throughput, recoveries, and concentrate grades. This paper discusses the metallurgical, operational, and management challenges and the outcomes obtained.

Keywords : Uitkomst; Nkomati Nickel; sulphide mineralization; grade control; ore fragmentation; problem solving methodologies.

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