Integrated Solutions for Tangible Benefits
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Arron Rampling
In order to remain ahead in markets with increasing volatility, the CRONIMET Group has been developing new and innovative approaches to business that demonstrates its track record of being able to develop integrated solutions, and to keep its finger on the pulse. Nowhere is this statement more applicable than on the African continent, where the CRONIMET Chrome Mining SA and CRONIMET Chrome SA (CRONIMET Chrome) divisions have been operating since 2008, following the strategic acquisition of mining exploration rights in South Africa.
“Sub-Saharan Africa is a major growth market for CRONIMET. We are involved in all aspects of the mining operations here, and we have opened various business units that complement our mining operations, offering integrated solutions in various ways,” says Silvia Costa, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for CRONIMET Chrome Mining SA.
The CRONIMET Chrome divisions are part of the CRONIMET Mining Group AG, a specialist servicing the global steel industry for more than 30 years. As a family-owned business established in the 1980s, the Group has become an integral part of the stainless steel, ferroalloy and primary metal mining industry around the world. The Group has a presence on four continents via its 56 subsidiaries, partnerships and representative offices and employs approximately 5,500 people. CRONIMET Mining, the mining division of the Group, provides solutions to the industry with its energy and processing business units and can adopt multiple roles in a mine’s operation, which is complemented by its vast product and service offering that constitutes a tangible advantage for the customer.
While its own mining operations remain the biggest area of business, CRONIMET Mining also has subsidiaries in the energy, trading and processing areas. “Our presence on the African continent is growing due to our interests in renewable energy and capitalising on this key growth area by deploying photovoltaic plants and energy management solutions in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Tanzania that generate electricity for local mining operations,” Ms Costa adds.
Full expansion phase
Since receiving its 30-year mining license in 2010 for the 2,000 hectare Thaba CRONIMET Chrome Mine (Thaba Mine) in the Bushveld Igneous Complex, work has been non-stop since the start of the commercial operation in 2011. After completion of the exploration and feasibility phase, the Company is now focused on doubling its output by 2016, using open cast mining methods to produce 500,000 tonnes of chrome ore concentrate annually.
“This year, CRONIMET Chrome Mining SA is very much in a full expansion phase where we will expand the mine and our processing capabilities. The completed photovoltaic plant is powering Thaba Mine’s daily operations, reducing our diesel consumption substantially and powering our activities with clean and sustainable renewable energy,” highlights Ms Costa.
A new processing plant is currently being built as part of the Thaba Mine expansion. A key feature of the new plant is that it will be highly automated, which, in turn, will increase safety and productivity. As a crucial aspect of operating in South Africa is to source locally where possible, the construction of the new plant is contracted to a local company, Consulmet Metals (Pty) Ltd, which utilises a mixture of equipment sourced locally and internationally that meets CRONIMET’s stringent safety requirements.
“Due to our geographic location, we are able to benefit from local resources and mining suppliers on our doorstep. We target local companies first, before we consider turning to international vendors,” she summarises.
The new plant at the Thaba Mine site will utilise the latest spiral technology available for separation as well as X-ray Transmission (XRT) ore sorting equipment, and will adopt the horizontal shaft impactor’s (HSI) crusher system to minimise energy usage as opposed to using ball mills. This highly automated plant will provide CRONIMET with the double production figures it strives to achieve.
“There is no production possible without safety; the two go hand-in-hand. We are committed to improving the value of life of present and future generations by integrating safety, economic success, social upliftment and environmental protection to achieve leading industry practices,” adds Ms Costa.
In addition to sustainable productivity improvements, CRONIMET Chrome Mining SA has been working hard to enhance staff competencies in handling this more advanced automated equipment and to educate staff in the use of the new technologies.
“We achieve this via on-the-job training with external training providers from South Africa, for technical tuition as well as basic skills. Career development is promoted internally through KPIs and individual staff goals and is an ongoing process.
“The most crucial aspect from my perspective is that an organisation only runs at full capacity when the right people are doing the job. It is this level of competence we look for in new employees and is very much drawn from our roots as a family-owned business,” she further notes.
Investing in the community
In partnership with the German Investment and Development Corporation (DEG), CRONIMET recently completed a recycling project in the township of Smash Block, near the Thaba Mine. The project had been ongoing since May 2012 and had a positive effect on the 10,000-15,000 residents in the township.
“Community members bring their recyclable waste to the recycling centre and are then paid in food vouchers, with vouchers for school supplies also given out at particular times of the year. At the end of each month, the vouchers are delivered to each household by a collection team consisting of people who were previously unemployed.
“This team of 40 recyclers have also received training in first aid and health & safety amongst other basic training deemed necessary for the job at hand. The collection and separation of recyclable materials not only creates a source of income for Smash Black’s largely unemployed population, but we have seen such a difference in the cleanliness of the area thanks to all the people involved in making the project a success for the community,” the CEO emphasises.
Given the benefits gained from this project, CRONIMET hopes to run this project in another local settlement in the Thabazimbi area soon.
Other key community initiatives the Company has participated in recently include addressing the local water shortages by constructing boreholes in informal settlements, constructing ablution blocks and setting up self-sustainable businesses for local residents to manage.
“Our local partnerships, both in business and in social investment, show that we are committed to not only long-term opportunities for employment for the local community, but also that we are working hard to deeply root ourselves into the landscape of South Africa as a sustainable mining operation with lofty aspirations for the future,” concludes Ms Costa.