Sulphuric acid plant opens early next year

Tsumeb: Tsumeb residents have for the past year been waiting anxiously for the completion of the N$2.7 billion sulphuric acid plant being built at the Tsumeb smelter. Once in full operation the high-tech plant will help reduce toxic emissions from copper smelting.

The emissions have in the past caused health concerns in the town and as a result the management of the smelter undertook to better control and reduce gasses from the smelter.

Spokesperson for Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb, AlinaGarises, yesterday said: “The hot commissioning of the innovative N$2.7 billion high-tech sulphuric acid plant is now in full swing and the official opening is scheduled for early next year. The plant is designed to capture off-gases that are rich in sulphur dioxide from copper smelting and to convert them into sulphuric acid. The plant is an effort to eliminate sulphur dioxide emissions that have plagued Tsumeb residents since the smelter opened in 1963.”

Garises said the acid will be sold as a commercial product predominantly to Namibia’s uranium mines for use in ore-leaching.

Based on an expected throughput of 240 000 – 310 000 tons of copper concentrate yearly, the acid plant will produce approximately 270 000 – 340 000 tons of sulphuric acid per annum.

“We have taken a giant leap forward in our continuing effort to upgrade the Tsumeb smelter and turn it into a world-class operation,” said Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb Vice-President and General Manager, Hans Nolte.

“It took nearly two years to get everything in place due to the immensity of the project but at this stage everything looks good to go. I must say it’s a ‘proudly Namibian’ moment for Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb and its employees,” he added. The Namibian government and Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb have been working in partnership to expedite the construction and operation of the facility. TheofilusNghitila, Environmental Commissioner, said: “This project shows that environmental improvement can be achieved through positive partnership with industry.”

Nolte explained: “Aside from adding tremendous value to our operations, this undertaking will give the Namibian economy a discernible boost as well.”

He added that the multi-faceted project adds innovative value to the local mining and processing scene and will secure eighteen full-time jobs for Namibians.

Engineering firm Outotec completed construction of the state-of-the-art facility and Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb entered into a memorandum of understanding with Protea Chemicals Namibia to assist with the marketing and sales of the sulphuric acid that will be produced at the smelter.