The Nokeng mine, processing plant and concentrator, with
capacity for 210,000 tonnes per year of fluorspar, is near
Rust de Winter in Gauteng province. Construction, at an
estimated cost of 1.7 billion rand ($123.3 million), was
delayed by bad weather in November and December, market
sources have said.
Sepfluor told Fastmarkets IM in April last year that it
would make its first trial shipments in January and February
2019. When the company presented at Fastmarkets’
conference in South Africa late in September 2018, however, it
revised this date to the end of February.
The project is 93% complete, it subsequently said in a video
published on its website on January 23, although it did not
disclose what caused the delay or what parts of the plant have
yet to be completed.
The delay was unsurprising given the complexity of the
operation, Sepfluor’s ambitious targets, and the
poor weather conditions late last year, market observers
"It is normal that unforeseen problems will arise, and it
would be no surprise to see further delays. It is common in
such complex operations," a market source said.
|View of the concentrator plant looking east
The same source, who visited Nokeng at the start of the
third quarter of 2018, had previously told Fastmarkets IM that
he expected delays. Having now seen recent photographs of the
site, he remarked on the good progress that Sepfluor has made
since that visit.
"Rumors regarding Sepfluor are varied and difficult to
corroborate. In any case, it is clear that they are making good
progress and they have started hiring local personnel," a
Europe-based hydrofluoric acid producer added. "A start to
production is only a question of time."
Bringing a fluorspar plant online and producing 97% CaF2
content consistently is a complicated task and is often subject
For example, Canada Fluorspar’s plant in Saint
Lawrence, Newfoundland, was originally scheduled to come online
around September 2017 but the company made its first shipment
of fluorspar only in August 2018.
Market observers saw Sepfluor’s targeted start
date as bullish, given that construction on the site started in
Several major consumers in Europe have yet to qualify
Sepfluor’s material and have yet to receive a date
on, or by when, they can expect a first shipment, they told
Sepfluor is offering fluorspar for the third and fourth
quarters of this year, according to messages it sent to a
consumer and which were seen by Fastmarkets IM. Still, this is
not out of the ordinary - the company said that operations in
the first half of the year would consist of trial shipments to
major fluorspar consumers.
The company signed supply contracts for 40% of its output
over the next three years before the start of production. It
will first need to satisfy those contracts before negotiating
Sepfluor might have signed contracts for 70,000-100,000
tonnes of fluorspar this year, one consumer estimated.
The market is currently tight because of the environmental
controls that the Chinese government has ordered on domestic
The tightness has caused increases in the price of acidspar
out of South Africa. Fastmarkets assessed the price of
acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, fob Durban, South Africa,
at $450-490 per tonne on January 31. This was up from $300-350
per tonne in the first week of January last year.
Sepfluor declined to comment at the time of publication.