Worldwide and in southern Africa the minerals sector is looking towards the emerging field of geometallurgy as a means towards unlocking value and enhancing sustainability practice during ore extraction.
Geometallurgy is the integration of geological, mineralogical and metallurgical data in three-dimensional space to create a spatially aware processing model. Moreover, by incorporating economic, marketing, and ESG (Environmental, Societal and Governance) considerations, these models seek to predict and maximise value addition during the mine life cycle.
It is against this background that Stellenbosch University (SU) has recently partnered with African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) to establish the ARM Geometallurgy Research Chair. The objective of the chair is to advance knowledge and build capacity in this important field, thereby enhancing the resilience and environmental sensitivity of the local minerals industry.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the research chair, it has been established as a shared position between Dr Bjorn von der Heyden from the Department of Earth Sciences and Dr Margreth Tadie from the Department of Chemical Engineering. Dr Von der Heyden’s field of specialisation is economic geology, geometallurgy and geochemistry, and that of Dr Tadie includes mineral processing, geometallurgy, and process optimisation and modelling. Research capacity has been increased with the appointment of two post-doctoral research fellows, Dr Cedric Djeutchou and Evelyn Manjengwa. The current student cohort comprises seven master’s students, who are all tackling various aspects of geometallurgy.
According to Dr Von der Heyden the students are performing well: “Based on their ongoing research in the Northern Cape and Gauteng, they promise to make an impactful contribution to the science of how iron and manganese ores are formed, how it can be extracted at maximum efficiency and value realisation, and at minimal environmental impact. We are proud of their achievements to date, and grateful to ARM for sponsoring their studies”.
At the formal signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on 17 October 2023, Dr Tadie said they are excited about what the Chair sets out to achieve: “This partnership with ARM is both visionary and timeous. We are moving towards a world of big data, increasingly complex ore bodies, increased societal awareness, and highly competitive business practice. The minerals sector is responding to this by acknowledging the importance of geometallurgy. We look forward contributing both knowledge and human capital development in this space”.
The Chief Executive of ARM Ferrous, André Joubert, stated: “We are excited and honoured that ARM is part of this momentous collaboration with Stellenbosch University to inaugurate the ARM Geometallurgy Research Chair. Through this collaboration we aim to advance knowledge and strengthen the environmental sustainability of our industry. The importance of research cannot be overstated in the endeavour of exploring fresh opportunities and innovating within the field of geometallurgy. We remain committed to operating safely, responsibly, and efficiently, while nurturing relationships with our communities and other stakeholders “.
Photo: The African Rainbow Minerals Geometallurgy Research Chair was launched at Stellenbosch University with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement. On the photo, from left to right, Dr Bjorn von der Heyden (SU Department of Earth Sciences), Maryke Hunter-Husselman (Director: Research Information and Development, SU), André Joubert (Chief Executive: ARM Ferrous), and Dr Margreth Tadie (SU Department of Chemical Engineering). Photo: Stefan Els
African Rainbow Minerals
Article by: Faculty of Science (media & communication)