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Vedanta Resources has started a feasibility study for a zinc smelting and refining facility to process metal from the Gamsberg mine. The company is also looking at converting the Skorpion zinc refinery in southern Namibia to co-treat some sulphide concentrates from Gamsberg.

Vedanta zinc exploration
Construction in progress at Gamsberg (photo: VZI).
               

In a statement, Vedanta Resources said that it is considering spending as much as $800 million on the South African smelter, which would have an initial capacity of 250 000 metric tons a year. The smelting plant would make Gamsberg, one of the world’s largest undeveloped zinc resources, a fully integrated zinc production site.

“The establishment of the proposed beneficiation plant will make Gamsberg a fully integrated zinc production site, with the mine, concentrator and smelter-refinery complex at a single location, making it the first integrated zinc manufacturing facility in South Africa,” the company said.

The study will focus on whether to roast or pressure leach the concentrate and how best to accommodate further expansion of Gamsberg and potentially other zinc producers in the area. Vendanta estimates that it will take up to six months to complete.

As the entire Gamsberg project has been developed in a modular fashion, the smelter-refinery complex could be aligned with Gamsberg Phases 2 and 3. The first phase of the $400 million Gamsberg mine is well underway, according to the company, with first production scheduled for mid-2018. Full production is expected to be reached in nine to 12 months.

The first phase has a life of mine of 13 years, producing an expected four million tonnes from the open pit mine, and 250 000 tonnes annually from the concentrator plant. To date around 60 million tonnes of waste has been removed.

“The expansion of Gamsberg into beneficiation streams has the potential to trigger a new wave of industrial and economic development in the Northern Cape, which could provide additional opportunities for Vedanta and others in what is one of the least developed regions of SA,” Vedanta said.

The plant would need 200MW of power and a water allocation, which would entail significant large-scale investment. The company has confirmed it would talk to Eskom about supply and tariffs for the project, which will include solar energy as part of its energy mix, potentially bringing independent power producers to the table.

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