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Titanium plant will bring jobs

Apr 16 2017 06:00
Paddy Harper

The mining industry on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast will get a R4.5 billion boost next year through the construction of a titanium processing plant in the Richards Bay industrial development zone.

The R4.5 billion is made up of a R4 billion investment in the plant, plus up to R500 million that will be spent on roads and other infrastructure.

The plant, a joint venture between New Zealand-based Avertana and Nyanza Light Metals, will create 550 permanent jobs.

Another 1 200 direct and 800 indirect jobs will be created during the construction phase.

Nyanza Light Metals is jointly owned by Johannesburg-based Arkein International and Mauritius-based DBF Capital.

Avertana, which was founded in 2012, has developed process technology for producing minerals and chemicals for use in everyday items from low-value industrial residues and the waste left behind by mining companies.

The company’s minerals and chemicals are used in various industrial goods and consumer products, including paints and coatings, plastics, paper, fibres and textiles, welding supplies, and pharmaceuticals.

The plant will use waste steel slag that Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium has been stockpiling at its Witbank, Mpumalanga, operations since 1965.

The slag in Witbank – about 45 million tons – equates to about 200 years of project life.

The titanium dioxide pigment is used as a colourant for food products, toothpaste and paint.

South Africa consumes 35 000 tons of titanium dioxide pigment a year.

The new plant will produce 50 000 tons of the pigment per year, most of which will be used locally. The rest will be exported to Africa and the Middle East.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu said the project, which was put together under “challenging circumstances”, would boost business confidence and help attract more investment to the province.

“Such developments are important given the fact that there are fears of a recession resulting from the downgrading of South Africa to junk status,” Mchunu said.

“We acknowledge that we are not the only nation in the world that has had to adjust to the harshness of a recession and other global economic challenges,” Mchunu said.

KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala said the plant was a “strategic” investment that would help to ensure that KwaZulu-Natal remained the national leader in the production of chemicals.

Zikalala said work on the plant, in which the department of trade and industry had invested R17 million for feasibility studies and a further R900 million as an investment allowance, would begin late next year, and would have a positive effect on the local and regional economies.

The project started in 2011 when Hatch was appointed to do a study on extracting titanium from Witbank’s waste steel slag and turning it into titanium dioxide pigment.

Production is scheduled to start at the Nyanza plant in 2019.

The economic development department has signed off on an investment of R11.9 billion for the development of infrastructure, which would create another 1 200 full-time jobs and another 3 100 during construction.

This included civil and electrical work on the 110-hectare Phase 1F industrial estate in the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone, which is where the plant will be located.

Because the zone is a special economic area with tax and customs incentives, the plant will be fully fenced and gated in accordance with SA Revenue Service licensing standards, making it a customs controlled area.

Zikalala said 20% of an estimated R300 million construction spend in Phase 1F would go to local small, medium and micro enterprises, in line with the industrial development zone’s statutory requirements. The initiative, he said, was in line with President Jacob Zuma’s call for rapid economic transformation.

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