Redoubling Platinum Group Metal Smelting Intensity — Operational Challenges and Solutions
The 2003 redoubling in power to 68MW on the Polokwane Smelter furnace represented a significant intensification in platinum group metal (PGM) smelting. Combined with onerous ‘green’ PGM concentrate smelting requirements, this yielded conditions unusually corrosive to copper coolers and refractories. This presented unexpected operational and design challenges to reliable crucible operation and maintenance.
Combined with specific operational control intervention, development of protective coatings has led to the life of water-cooled copper components improving from 9 to 40 months. The furnace matte endwall was extended in 2010 to address accelerated wear of refractories and the potential risk for contact of copper components by superheated matte. An 18 month planned endwall rebuild cycle has been demonstrated (versus catastrophic failure within 9 months).
Finally, benefits including lower energy consumption, improved metal recoveries and higher productivity resulting from operational and in-house design developments will be described, that justify “Celebrating the Mega-scale” in PGM smelting.
KeywordsPGM smelting electric furnace
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 1.A. Shaw et al., Challenges and Solutions in PGM Furnace Operation: High Matte Temperature and Copper Cooler Corrosion, Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 113 (2013), 251–261.Google Scholar
- 2.T. de Vries, Automatic pressure testing of furnace cooling water circuits at Anglo Platinum, Hatch Furnace Technology Symposium, Johannesburg, 2010.Google Scholar
- 3.R.H. Eric and A.A. Hejja, Dimensioning, Scale-up and Operating Considerations for Six Electrode Electric Furnaces, Part II: Design and Scale-up Considerations for Furnaces Treating PGM-Containing Copper-Nickel Concentrates, EPD Congress, ed G.W. Warren, 1995, 239–257.Google Scholar
- 4.M.W. Kennedy, Electric Slag Furnace Dimensioning, International Smelting Technology Symposium: Incorporating the 6th Advances in Sulfide Smelting Symposium, ed J. P. Downey et al., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., USA, 2012.Google Scholar
- 5.D. G. C. Robertson and S. Kang, “Model Studies of Heat Transfer and Flow in Slag-Cleaning Furnaces”, Fluid Flow Phenomena in Metals Processing, ed N. El-Kaddah, The Metallurgical Society, Warrendale, PA, 1999, 157–168.Google Scholar
- 6.J. Ndlovu et al., “Operational Readiness” — A Value Proposition, Nickel and Cobalt 2005 — Challenges in Extraction and Production, COM2005, Calgary, 2005, 389–404, paper and presentation.Google Scholar
- 7.P.K. van Manen, Furnace energy efficiency at Polokwane Smelter, Third International Platinum Conference ‘Platinum in Transformation’, The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 2008, 191–196.Google Scholar
- 8.L.R. Nelson, et al., Role of Technical Innovation on Production Delivery at the Polokwane Smelter, Nickel and Cobalt 2005 — Challenges in Extraction and Production, COM2005, Calgary, 2005, 91–116.Google Scholar