South Africa’s fluorspar-to-fluorochemical
initiatives are in a strong position to bear fruit, as pressure
mounts from downstream consumers to establish non-Chinese
sources of fluorspar products.
But investor confidence in the sector remains a barrier to
their realisation, IM learned at the Fluorspar
Hosting the world’s largest reserves of
fluorite, South Africa has been the focus of increased
fluorspar exploration in recent years, however weakening prices
for fluorspar and fluorochemicals since 2012 have undermined
financial backing for projects.
One notable example is the Doornhoek project, developed by
SA Fluorite Pty Ltd in conjunction with ferrochrome giant
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) in South Africa, which
has been struggling to secure the funding necessary to take it
to production stage.
This is despite feasibility studies showing Doornhoek
contains more than 50m tonnes fluorspar at an average grade
exceeding 20% calcium fluoride (CaF2), according
Allan Saad, senior geologist with ENRC.
Saad told IM that Doornhoek is a promising
project with 80-85% CaF2 recovery of acidspar and
limited impurities and that considering the weakness of the
South African rand against the US dollar, the site should not
be expensive to develop.
The company is understood to have set a production target of
almost 275,000 tpa acidspar, once the project gets into
Saad said that material from Doornhoek has the potential to
be developed for consumption in downstream fluorochemical
markets, especially given its high grade.
Also speaking at the meeting in Marrakech, Chris Potgieter,
director of BFluor Chemicals Pty Ltd, pointed out that new
technologies for fluorine’s potential end-use
applications such as pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals, could
widen the demand profile for high purity fluorspar.
Africa, as a low-cost fluorspar production base, could see
the local development of new fluorine applications, facilitated
by the establishment of more energy-efficient technologies,
which will create further opportunities for fluorspar
consumption within the continent.
If these visions are realised, which is by no means certain
given Africa’s patchy history of developing and
upgrading its own resource industries, then new fluorspar
projects will be needed.