BOTSWANA – LIONORE MINING INTERNATIONAL of Toronto has given the go-ahead to the construction of a commercial nickel refinery using its Activox hydrometallurgical process.
The US$620-million facility will be installed at the Tati nickel project, 30 km east of Francistown, Botswana. The total capital cost includes US$482 million for the base metal refinery, US$114 million for a dense media separation plant upgrade in the concentrator, and US$24 million to upgrade the electric power infrastructure.
LionOre says it will benefit from vertical integration with the new plant. It will also boost nickel production five-fold over the life of the mine. And the new technology will make underground mining of the Selkirk deposit economical. Annual nickel production from Tati will nearly double to 22,458 tonnes. Yearly copper production will be between 12,000 and 16,000 tonnes.
Activox is a proprietary hydrometallurgical technology developed by LionOre for the recovery of base metals from sulphide concentrate. The core of the Activox process is the combination of ultra-fine grinding and pressure oxidation. The ultra-fine grinding of nickel sulphide concentrates activates the sulphide minerals such that at a low temperature (105C) and moderate pressure (1,000 kPa) the Activox process extracts nickel, copper and cobalt from host sulphide minerals to solution where they can be concentrated and made into nickel and copper metal and cobalt carbonate using conventional processing technologies.
The Tati Activox Phase 1 plant has been operating continuously since mid-2004, producing LME-grade nickel and copper cathodes. The plant has consistently exceeded design expectations, has facilitated training and added invaluable process and design information for the full-scale Activox refinery. Average recoveries were 94.2% for nickel, 81.6% for copper and 89.9% for cobalt.
The project is owned 85% by LionOre (www.LionOre.com) and 15% by the Government of Botswana.