Mintek Type Mining and Minerals Research Industry Mining Founded 1934 Headquarters Randburg, South Africa, Key people Mr. Abiel Mngomezulu Products MillStar, FloatStar, FurnStar, Minstral, Conroast Website www.mintek.co.za
Mintek was originally established as a Minerals research laboratory by the government of South Africa in 1934. It is still partly funded by the state with a mandate to “promote mineral technology and to foster the establishment and expansion of industries in the field of minerals and products derived from them”.
In collaboration with minerals and metal producers locally and internationally, Mintek develops and transfers innovative, new and improved technology to industry for processing, extracting, refining and utilising minerals and mineral products.
Mintek offers R&D expertise, service test work, and technologies for the gold, platinum-group metals (PGM), base metals, ferro-alloys, and industrial minerals sectors. Extensive laboratory and pilot-plant facilities are available for investigations in the following fields:
- Analysis characterisation of ores and other materials, analytical chemistry and mineralogical techniques;
- Minerals processing comminution, flotation, gravity, electrostatic, magnetic, and dense-media separation;
- Hydrometallurgy leaching, bacterial oxidation, adsorption (CIP and RIP), solvent extraction and electrowinning;
- Pyrometallurgy – pre-heating and pre-reduction, submerged-arc and DC transferred-arc smelting, converting, condensing, and, process simulation
Other specialised technologies:
- Metallurgical process control and optimisation;
- Tank and heap bio-leaching of gold and base metals;
- Alloy development;
- Pollution studies;
- Residue processing; and,
- Techno-economic studies
Mintek's activities range from initial investigations to complete process development and, in conjunction with engineering partners, the design, construction, and commissioning of plants.
A full range of sophisticated facilities are available for sample preparation and characterisation, comminution, flotation, physical separation, smelting and leaching, purification and metal recovery. Some of these facilities were developed in-house and are unique to Mintek. Processes can be scaled up from initial exploratory batch tests to continuous pilot plant campaigns involving several hundred tons of material. In many cases, work can be carried out at the client’s site. The extensive laboratories and pilot-plants are supported by specialist analytical, mineralogical and information services, expertise in computer simulation and modeling, and techno-economic studies.
Mintek has its origins in co-operation between the government of South Africa and the University of the Witwatersrand (now included in the University of Johannesburg).
Mintek, South Africa’s National Minerals-Research Organisation was founded in 1934 to assist the Mining Industry to operate more effectively and profitably, has achieved international recognition for its contributions. The Mining and minerals industry of South Africa has been extremely innovative, and many notable advances in extraction, refining and manufacturing technologies originating there have impacted on the minerals industry worldwide.
Mintek works with industry and other R&D organisations to research, develop and implement new and improved technologies in the minerals and metallurgical sectors. South Africa has become a world leader in this technological niche, with a successful record of technology export. Mintek’s research complex is situated in Randburg, about 15 km north of Johannesburg and within easy reach of Johannesburg International airport.
Minerals Research Laboratory
- 1934 MRL established at the Department of Metallurgy and Assaying, University of the Witwatersrand.
- 1935 Andalusite beneficiation project started (Mintek’s longest-running investigation). First sponsored project (industrial diamonds in drill bits). First scholarships awarded.
- 1936 First published papers (reduction of chromite, reduction of titanomagnetite)
- 1938 Early investigations of refractory gold ores.
- 1939 First investigations of PGM concentration. First overseas exhibition (World Fair in New York).
- 1941 Project on recovery of apatite from Foskorite.
- 1942 Vermiculite investigation. First patent (exfoliating furnace).
- 1944 Name changed to the Government Metallurgical Laboratory.
- 1945 Investigations of Witwatersrand uranium ores began.
- 1946 First uranium concentration and leaching tests.
- 1947 First uranium pilot plant (at Western reefs Gold Mine).
- 1949 First on-site uranium leaching plant (at Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine).
- 1950 Ion exchange incorporated on uranium pilot plants.
- 1952 First full-scale uranium leaching plant (at West Rand Consolidated).
- 1953 Secret report on ion exchange for uranium recovery.Pic R Porter (M50).
- 1955 Pilot plant for electrolytic manganese metal (at West Rabd Consolidated).
- 1957 Improvements of apatite recovery process (Foskor).
- 1959 First solvent extraction testwork for uranium. Philip Lloyd, PhD thesis.
- 1960 Start of uranium refining programme (by AEB).
- 1963 Work started on fundamentals of flotation. Uranium solvent extraction piloted at Buffelsfontein.
- 1965 National Institute for Metallurgy.
Government Mettalurgical Laboratory
- 1966 Purlex process piloted. National Institute for Metallurgy Act.
- 1967 Harmony U plant converted to solvent extraction.
- 1969 Pyrometallurgy Research Group established at the University of the Witwatersrand.
- 1970 Harmony U plant converted to Purlex.
- 1971 Start of UG2 PGM investigations.
- 1972 Work completed on Rössing flowsheet development.
- 1973 First S&T outreach programme.
- 1974 First continuous flotation pilot-plant campaign. Certified Reference Materials programme started (SARM 1,Bushveld granite). First INFACON Congress. Measurement and Control Research Group established at UCT.
- 1975 First UG2 pilot plant campaign (for Lonmin Western Platinum).
- 1976 Move to new Randburg premises. CIP investigation starts.
- 1977 Base metals process development (Black Mountain). First commercial NIMCIX (CCIX) plant at Blyvooruitzicht.
- 1978 Started work on alternative UG2 smelting technology. Guide on the preparation of reference materials prepared for the ISO.
- 1979 Implement at on of submerged-arc furnace control (Minstral) (Ferrometals, Witbank). First “plasma” arc smelting tested in UK.
- 1980 First application of multivariable milling control (East Driefontein) Mintek.
- 1981 Council for Mineral Technology (Mintek) established. Incorporation of the AEB’s Extraction Metallurgy Division. First full-scale CIP plant (at President Brand).
- 1982 Pilot 3.2 MVA DC furnace commissioned at Mintek. First micro-processorbased multivariable controller for milling circuits developed.
- 1983 First industrial UG2 concentrator commissioned (Western Platinum Milling control extended to PGM circuits). Start of bacterial oxidation studies.
National Institute for Metallurgy
- 1984 UG2 smelting technology transferred to industry. First investigations of PGM recovery from float tails (MF2).
- 1985 Study completed on base metal recovery by solvent extraction. Improved andalusite recovery process developed.
- 1986 AS&TS Award for contributions to understanding of the CIP process. Work started on strong-base resins for gold recovery. First MF2 plant.
- 1987 Pilot plant development of the MF2 flowsheet for PGM recovery.
- 1988 DC smelting technology commercialised (Palmiet Ferrochrome). National Productivity Award for milling control (in conjunction with Gold Fields).
- 1989 ICP-Mass Spectrometry introduced for analysis of PGMs. Large-scale demonstration of bacterial oxidation of pyritic concentrates.
- 1990 First pilot-scale study of atmospheric pollution in the Vaal triangle.
- 1991 Minfurn carbon-regeneration technology implemented (Klipwal Gold Mine). Evaluation of flowsheets for heavy minerals concentration.
- 1992 First Minstral controllers exported. Initial investigation of bioleaching for base-metal sulphides.
- 1993 FloatStar tested on an industrial PGM concentrator. Development of a low- cost nickel-free stainless steel. NIMCIX tested for water treatment.
- 1994 FloatStar flotation circuit control commercialised. Large-scale DC smelting facility commissioned.
- 1995 DC smelting technology implemented for ilmenite (Namakwa Sands). Expanded support for SSMEs.
- 1996 Bi-national cyanide study started with AMIRA. Analytical laboratory receives SABS 0259 certification.
- 1997 First Minataur hydrometallurgical gold refinery commissioned. Minfurn carbon-regeneration technology exported to South America (Santa Rosa, Peru).
Council for Mineral Technology (MINTEK)
- 1998 Bacterial oxidation implemented for refractory gold (Beaconsfield, Tasmania). First QEMSCAN acquired for automated mineralogical investigations.
- 1999 “Own” income passes 50% to total. MINIX gold-selective resin introduced to industry - RIP technology adopted by Penjom gold mine, Malaysia.
- 2000 Project AuTEK launched. Large-scale demonstration of DC arc ferronickel smelting from laterite ore.
- 2001 DC smelting technology implemented for cobalt recovery (Chambishi Metals). Cyanide laboratory commissioned. AuTEK Nanotechnology programme initiated.
- 2002 Quality system achieves ISO 9001 certification. Bioleaching of copper suiphide concentrates demonstrated at Industrials AuTEK Biomedical programme initiated. Peñoles, Mexico. Mineral Economics and Strategy Unit formed.
- 2003 Environmental management system achieves ISO 14001 certification.
- 2004 OSH system achieves ISO 18001 certification. First ConRoast (DC arc) PGM smelting demonstration (for Lonmin).
- 2005 Large-scale demonstration of copper heap bioleaching at Sarcheshmeh Copper Complex, Iran.
- 2006 LeachStar gold-circuit controller commercialised (Mponeng).
- 2007 Braemore Platinum ConRoast demonstration starts. Cyanide lab receives ISO 17025 certification.
- 2008 100th installation of Minstral furnace controller. ConRoast smelter upgraded.
- 2009 Diamond provenance project launched. Minfurn technology extended to water purification, food industries.
Mintek's scientific and engineering divisions undertake product development and process design work, and provide a complete suite of consulting and testwork services to meet industry needs. Each division focuses on a specific technology area within the broad spectrum of metallurgy and minerals processing, although many projects require input from several areas of specialisation. In addition, Mintek's output activities are divided into programmes that are based largely on the major resource sectors, thus enhancing market orientation and focus.
Services offered include biotechnology for the process of gold and complelx base metal ores, including copper, lead and zinc. This involves amenability testwork and consulting, integrated piloting with metal recovery by solvent extraction/electrowinning, flowsheet design, and plant commissioning. Use is made of improvement microbial cultures and novel contacting equipment.
Minerals Processing (MPD)
This division offers flowsheet design and optimisation for the processing of gold, platinum-group metals, and a broad spectrum of base metals and industrial minerals. It boasts well-equipped laboratories and pilot plants for sample preparation and characterisation, including crushing and grinding; dense media separation; classification; electrostatic and magnetic techniques; gravity concentration; jigging; ultrafine grinding; modelling and simulation; circuit audits, and design optimisation.
Mintek's Hydrometallurgy division develops cost-effective methods for mineral extraction, upgrading and optimisation, including leaching; precipitation; pressure leaching; solvent extraction; ion exchange; electrowinning; gold process testing and development (CIP, RIP); chloride-based gold recovery processes; carbon regeneration; metal recovery from wastes by ion exchange; acid mine drainage treatment;cyanide speciation and department; chromium (IV) studies, and waste characterisation (acid rain and TCLP tests).
In the pyrometallurgy division improved or new pyrometallurgical processes are researched and developed. These include DC-are technology for ferroalloy smelting/melting; ilmenite smelting; ferronickel production from laterites; cobalt-copper recovery from furnace and converter slags; zinc recovery from slags and residues; ferro-alloy recovery from steel-plant dusts; matte and alloy smelting of low-sulphide high-chromium PGM concentrates; preheating; prereduction; smelting; fuming and condensing, and process modelling and simulation. The High Temperature Technology group of Pyro brings special skills to the pyrometallurgical processing environment, and carries out work on process development and optimisation for Mintek's Pyromettallurgy division and the local and international metallurgical industries. Activities include high temperature process development, solid-state and phase quilibrium studies of metallurgical systems at elevated temperatures, and investigations of the performance of refractory materials used in furnaces and ladles.
Advance Materials Division (AMD)
Mintek's Advanced Materials Division division develops cost-effective materials and alloys for use in the metallurgical industry, including novel jewellry alloys – coloured gold, hard 22 and 24-carat gold, and nickel-free white gold. Further areas of endeavour are the development of cost-effective low-alloy stainless steels, high-performance PGM-based superalloys, 'smart' materials based on phase transformations, new industrial uses for old, and materials selection, wear, corrosion and failure investigations, as well as novel granulation technologies.
Measurement and Control (MAC)
Mintek's Measurement and Control division develops unique measurement techniques for cyanide monitoring and carbon activity. Process control products include MillStar milling control, FloatStar advanced stabilising controller for flotation circuits, Furnstar (Minstral) resistance-based control for submerged-arc furnaces and StarCS, a web-based, plant wide control platform for stabilising control and optimisation.
Analytical Services (ASD)
Mintek's Analytical Services division applies a wide range of analytical techniques to support Mintek's process-development activities, particularly the pilot plant operations. The division is accredited with ISO Guide 25/ SABS 0259 (1990) and EN 45001 (1989) requirements, and is the only producer of geological and metallurgical certified reference materials in South Africa.
The mineralogy division of Mintek carries out sample characterisation by optical microscopy and instrumental methods (X-ray diffraction, electron microprobe and image analysis), high temperature solid-state studies, phase equilibrium studies, performance of refactories, air quality monitoring and source apportionment.
Small Scale Mining and Beneficiation (SSMB)
Mintek, through itsSmall Scale Mining unit has undertaken to develop appropriate technology for the beneficaiton of minerals and to offer technical service to all small-scale miners in South Africa and the Africaby promoting effective and sustainable utilisation of mineral resources. This is being done through research and development and the provision of training and support for artisanal and small-scale miners (ASSMs) so that development can be as sustainable as possible when based on limited resources. A positive contribution is being made to employment creation, gender equity, and the alleviation of poverty and the effects of the AIDS scrouge in some of the poorest areas through the utilisation of resources in undeveloped or abandoned mineral deposits.
Mineral Economics and Strategies Unit (MESU)
The Minerals Economics and Strategies Unit undertakes regional studies on mineral-based development, feasibility studies of socio-economically important beneficaiton projects, for example the Rural Jewellery Development Project.
- Mintek 75 Brochure
- Mintek in Brief Brochure
- The Mintek Handbook, 1991
- The Story of Mintek 1934 - 1984, Jack Levin
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