Mintek: briefing

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Mineral Resources and Energy

15 June 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


15 June 2001

Chairperson: Mr DM Nkosi

Documents handed out:
Mintek Budget and Plans 2001/2 Presentation (see Appendix below for version without graphs)

Mintek website:

Mintek presented its budget and plans for 2001/2. The Committee discussed issues relating to capacity building, scientific innovations, recycling and environmental management. The Committee was concerned that the amount of money spent on research as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product is dropping. The Committee stressed that government funding of research must increase.

Mintek presentation
Dr Paul Jourdan, the CEO of Mintek (for nine months), told the Committee that the budget had been passed by the Board and the Ministry and only Parliament must now approve it. He pointed out that the Minister has suggested that all Chief Executive Officers should have performance contracts. These contracts will stipulate time periods for various tasks. If CEOs do not perform within the agreed time period, reasons must be given. He summarised the Mintek budget for various projects (see document).

The Chairperson said that despite the interesting presentation, aspects were not clear to the Committee. He focused on capacity building and asked how Mintek selects and prioritises their projects. He also asked how Mintek funds projects such as Edu-map considering the reduced funding from government.

Dr Jourdan said that the environment has changed drastically over the last five years. Many laboratories have closed because companies such as Anglo American have moved elsewhere. He explained that Mintek is trying to increase capacity through universities and said that the universities are involved in their projects.

Further, Dr Jourdan explained that Mintek only prioritises problems involving complex metallurgy. Mintek will not prioritise a project that uses normal technology or will not add any income to the organisation.

Mr Nkosi (ANC) pointed out that the presentation did not deal extensively with either waste management or recycling. He asked Dr Jourdan to elaborate on the issues relating to the mining dumps and waste management.

Dr Jourdan replied that all waste material is recycled and the metals are used for building or road construction. Waste is extracted and the metal is recycled. He said that Mintek would like to be more involved in the coal dumps but it is difficult to do all things at once. Mintek would like small-scale operators to deal with the problem in Witbank, Ogies and Springbok. The intention is to extract usable coal from these dumps. Mintek will clean the waste so that it does not catch fire.

Ms Motobatse (ANC) referred to Mintek’s inventions and innovations and asked how Mintek patents its projects. She also asked where the Zenzele project is situated.

Dr Jourdan said that Mintek tries to patent their projects as much as possible. He explained that Zenzele is a demo center based at Mintek. The intention is to extend Zenzele into small-scale fields like the diamond mining areas. In future they hope to extend Zenzele to all areas.

Mr Oliphant (ANC) asked what impact Mintek has in the other provinces and what happens to mine dumps in these areas.

Dr Jourdan replied that minerals are not found in all the provinces. Mintek must operate where there are minerals and the location of minerals is concentrated in particular geological and metallurgic terrains. He said that even though some industrial minerals such as ceramics and limestone are found in other areas, these products are not as valuable as gold and other minerals.

Mr Oliphant asked how Mintek is involved with laser technology and diamond cutting technology. He was informed that the technology is produced by John Bond. He asked whether the technology developed by Mintek belonged to Mintek or to the international experts hired by Mintek.

Dr Jourdan said that John Bond had made a presentation to Mintek but he could not say whether this related to technology or not. He affirmed that all technology used by Mintek belongs to South Africa.

Mr Oliphant wanted to know how South Africa could adapt mining methods used by other countries to create more jobs.

Dr Jourdan said that Mintek is only marginally involved in deep mining. Mintek is involved in processing and not mining. They extract economic elements from rocks. Mintek prefers using machinery underground because this minimizes mining casualties. Ultimately he said that Mintek is not qualified to say whether a foreign system is better or worse than the systems currently used in South Africa.

Prof Mohamed (ANC) asked who provides Mintek with its core funding. He pointed out that the amount of money spent on research as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product is dropping. Further, he argued that the government is not providing funding for research and foreign funding is also diminishing. In essence he argued that Mintek should receive the largest portion of funding available for science.

Dr Jourdan said that the funding issue is a very sensitive issue. He insisted that if the state provided more funding for Mintek, the nature of Mintek would change. He argued that the state should maintain Mintek for its original purpose - to develop innovative new technologies. He agreed that funding both from the government and foreign donors is decreasing. He suggested that the issue be debated in Parliament. He added that if Mintek succeeds it is expected to do more and he said this explains why Mintek has been pushed thus far.

Prof Mohamed then asked why the gold mining industry does not opt for bacterial leaching because bioleaching is very important.

Dr Jourdan said bioleaching is not good for certain mines and that it is only good for the Wits gold. Bioleaching is only applicable to South Africa because some of the mines are very old. Bioleaching is more effective particularly in areas with ores because they are difficult to treat.

Prof Mohamed pointed out that bursaries have been declining for white males since 2000, but have been stable for blacks since 2000. He asked if this meant that no bursaries were available for whites in 2000.

Dr Jourdan said that Mintek expects the percentage of white bursars to drop to fifteen percent. He said this is acceptable because it is a reflection of the percentage of whites in the country. However, he said that Mintek must only accept the best students to remain world class hence it does not accept students only because they are from a particular designated group. Dr Jourdan added that they are planning to reduce the number of bursaries but improve the quality of the bursary.

The Chairperson suggested that the Mintek Board assist the Committee on policy issues. The Chairperson highlighted the issue of government funding and support raised by Prof Mohamed. Dr Jourdan agreed that he would take the issue forward.

Mr Nkosi insisted that the issue of recycling does not only apply to mining but to other areas as well. He suggested that a method be established to deal with these other areas. He referred to the huge piles of steel in the harbour. He asked whether there are any processing methods that can prevent hazardous waste.

Dr Jourdan said that they are working on this issue. He said that all their methods tend to be environmental friendly. There are two strategies available. The first is to clean up the old mines where old methods are used, because Mintek cannot introduce new methods in old mines. The second method is to introduce new methods in new mines.

Prof Mohamed commented that sciences are now pushed to find commercial funding. He highlighted the need for science councils to raise this issue with Parliament and Mintek is one of the organisations with the highest commercial funding.

Ms Ngaleka asked whether Mintek ensures that international skills are transferred locally so that it need not rely on international skills indeterminately.

Dr Jourdan replied that Mintek uses a minimal number of international consultants. He added that when they do use these consultants, they make sure that they get everything possible from them because they are too expensive.

Ms Ngaleka then asked if Mintek could indicate its gender balance in all its operations.

Dr Jourdan responded that, similar to the rest of the mining and metallurgy industry, Mintek has a shortage of women. He said that Mintek is trying to recruit more women through bursary offerings.

The Chairperson concluded by saying that the Committee would consider ways in which to progress in terms of the points discussed.

The meeting was adjourned.
The Mintek Budget and Plans
An overview of the technical and social plans of Mintek for the budgetary year 2001/2
Planned expenditure 2001/2002

Expenditure planned






Ferrous metals


Non-ferrous metals


Industrial minerals


Opportunity enhancement




Planned income 2001/2002

Income planned


Core Funding


Earmarked funding


Commercial income


Sundry income




  • Beneficiation
    Jewellery (by end 2001)
    National hallmarking/quality assurance
    National programme for mainstreaming products to markets
    National Jewellery product innovation centre
    Establishment of rural incubators, hives co-ops and JVs
    Enviroplas (by end 2002)
    process based on the DC arc furnace for the treatment of zinc bearing metallurgical waste to produce an environmentally acceptable slag ill solve many environmental problems associated with the presence of heavy metals.
    Bioleaching for base metals(by end 2002)
    Successful demonstration of the bioleaching of complex polymetallic concentrate in Mexico.
    Engineering of the bioleaching of clean chalcopyrite.
    Development of high-temperature heap bioleaching of low-grade predominantly chalcopyritic ore,
    Titanium chlorination (by end 2003)
    evaluate known technology for slag chlorination and sponge consolidation
    Magnesium from dolomite(by end 2004)
    develop an efficient and low cost thermal process for magnesium metal
    Coega ferronickel and ISSP

    Export of mineral technologies, capital goods and services
    Technology commercialisation
    High quality, focussed technologies & services
    Partnerships and joint ventures
    Marketing strategy
    The Americas
    Australia and Africa
    Foreign income
    Cluster development strategy
    Resource based technology strategy (RBTS)

    Regional strategies for the mineral processing sector

    Commercial projects in the region
    COSAK (Chambisi)
    Heap bioleach
    Floatstar (Namibia)
    PlantStar (Zimbabwe)
    SADC – MCU participation
    Capacity building
    Availability of mineral resources
    Metallurgical opportunities in wastes
    Database of surficial resources (DACST - SA only) later SADC
    Beneficiation projects in the region
    Cobalt (Chambisi)
    Zimbabwe ferroalloy and stainless steel
    Mozambique ferronickel
    Zambezi valley mineral based industry potential

    Development of Small, medium and micro-enterprises
    Support to small scale mines
    Whole package incl. downstream applications
    National small mining development programme (NSC)
    Small scale mining unit
    Will be set up in 2001
    Technology demonstration centre

    Internal transformation (more under HR)
    Employment equity
    Procurement policy
    Mintek structure

    Mintek budget 2001/2002
    Gold industry programme
    Bacterial leaching with extremely thermophyllic cultures
    Beaconsfield bacterial-oxidation plant in Beaconsfield, Tasmania.
    Commissioning of the Laizhou bacterial-oxidation plant in Shandong Province, China..
    Nelson Gold of feasibility-study design criteria for a bacterial-oxidation plant for the Chore refractory gold deposit in Tajikistan..
    Feasibility-study pilot plant campaign for Nelson Gold on the Taror gold-copper deposit in Tajikistan, leading to the development of design criteria for this plant.
    Interpreting expert system
    Consortium with Lonrho and Professor Loveday. It is likely that milling will be chosen for piloting the technology. DACST has given preliminary approval for funding
    Catalyst project, which is a joint venture with Anglogold and
    Goldtest and other services
    Igoli and environmentally acceptable practice standards for small miners
    Platinum industry programme
    Recovery of PGMs from UG2 ore with elevated levels of Cr2O3
    Technology which will enable smelting of PGM concentrates containing elevated levels of chromium (5 % Cr2O3), which, in turn, will lead to higher PGM recoveries during flotation.
    Optimisation of ultra high temperature Platinum alloys

    Ferrous metals industry programme
    Ferronickel process
    [Ed note: Diagram not included]
    Development of more economical stainless steels
    Duplex stainless steels and smartbolts, (both funded), are expected to continue.
    Vanadium stainless steel research will continue if funded by DACST.
    Improvement of intravascular stents
    The work on adding platinum and /or gold to stainless steel for human body implants will continue
    Furnace control
    Integration of Minstral into the PlantStar platform
    Development of the Minstral 6 for six-in-line electrode furnaces.

    Non-ferrous metals industry programme
    Bioleaching of chalcopyrite
    Engineering of the bioleaching of clean chalcopyrite using the extremely thermophilic bacterial culture. The availability of the Mexican demonstration plant facility may provide an opportunity for the larger scale testing of a reactor with sulfolobus culture
    Thermal magnesium process
    Develop a process at a 100 kg/h Mg demonstration level
    Zinc refining
    Build pilot plant for refining PWG Zinc to Special High Grade Zinc
    Process flow model to appraise various waste treatment processes with different mixes of feed material

    Industrial minerals industry programme
    To demonstrate the technology on different mine water (esp. on coal mines) and extend this test work to water generated from various metallurgical processes
    Chlorination of high titanium slag
    Evaluate different technology for the chlorination of high titanium slag, specifically the fines fraction.
    Construct and commission test facilities for the execution of chlorination experiments under steady-state operational conditions.
    Conduct sponge consolidation and remelting tests using a vacuum induction furnace and a vacuum arc remelting furnace. Evaluate the economics of the process.

    Originally the Mintek Aurora Programme (1992-2000)
    Transformed into an NGO that can serve wider interests
    EDUMAP launched on 03 April 2001 under the leadership of Mr N Melville
    A national Mintek project aimed at stimulating the interest of school going children and technology (specifically metallurgy)
    Mintek Bursars
    In house training
    Creates opportunity for employee development that supports Mintek business
    Creates employee development opportunities in the nation’s interest
    Operational goals
    Enhance business and financial understanding in Mintek
    Support and enhance problem solving and decision making skills
    Provide Adult Basic Education and Training
    Equip managers and supervisors with the necessary management skills
    Sensitisation of employees with regards to HIV/aids
    Identification and development of:
    Possible managers/supervisors
    Technical specialists
    Transformation of Mintek
    Employment equity
    Business development
    Advance skills/knowledge base
    Career path development and succession planning


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