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Tsumeb acid plant almost there

Despite a controversy that arose between the main contractor and a subcontractor during construction of the acid tank bases, the project is fast nearing completion. Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb, the owner and operator of the smelter expects to inaugurate the tanks by the middle of this year.

Despite the slight cost setback, the projected N$2.7 billion gas-cleaning and sulphuric acid plant at Dundee Precious Metals’ copper smelter in Tsumeb is progressing well and on target for commissioning in mid-2015. The Economist corresponded with Hans Nolte, Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb’s Vice President and General Manager who said, “we are on schedule to commission the acid plant in mid-2015 as announced in our construction update in December.”

The new plant when completed, will be capable of producing between 270,000 and 340,000 tons of acid annually. Construction of a project of this magnitude carries it own share of challenges. Nolte said, “construction delays are never caused by one factor. This is the largest single construction project in the history of Namibian mining.” “It will be the first acid producing plant of its kind in our country and will mean a major environmental improvement for the community of Tsumeb and Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa Regions,” he added. Again in terms of safety and the ability of the structure to hold together under a load, including its own weight, resisting breakage or deflection, he said, “the structural integrity is sound.” Said Nolte, “estimating the costs of such a large scale project is never an exact science and we have overcome challenges acquiring the appropriate technical expertise, [getting] sufficient numbers of skilled workers, providing housing for temporary workers and encountering transportation interruptions due to sourcing materials from around the globe.” “The acid plant is a large and complex project and we are committed to doing it right. It will be the first plant of its kind and will largely solve the problem of S02 emissions that have plagued Tsumeb and [surrounding] area for many decades before Dundee Precious Metals acquired the smelter five years ago,” he said. According to Dundee, an internationally renowned Finnish engineering firm, Outotec, has been contracted to build the high-tech facility. Outotec is the global leader in sulphuric acid plant design and delivery and is responsible for the engineering, procurement and construction management of the project. Meanwhile as of early December last year, the civil works for the state-of-the-art plant were more than 90% complete and mechanical installations had reached the 75% completion stage. “Piping, cables and cable racking were more than 20% complete, and electrical panels have been installed. Moreover, preparations for next year’s cold commissioning are in progress and the recruitment of maintenance personnel has begun,” Dundee said in their media release then. Said Dundee, civil construction has started for the installation of two new Peirce-Smith converters which, upon completion, will tie into the acid plant project. A converter is a large cylindrical furnace that transforms molten copper into blister copper, the main product manufactured at the Tsumeb Smelter. The moving of the converter shells to the converter aisle is scheduled for April 2015, and installation will commence by June. Commissioning of the converters is planned for November-December 2015.

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