The emission of sulphur dioxide by mining activity in Selebi-Phikwe could be turned into a business opportunity, if everything goes according to plan. BCL, the company that operates the smelter that produces the toxic gas, last week revealed that it is in the process of conducting a bankable feasibility study to gauge the potential of setting up a chemical plant to monetize the sulphur dioxide.
BCL Managing Director Dan Mahupela said they have made significant efforts to convert sulphur dioxide from the smelter gas emissions to valuable products. Together with Konsultanz, a Dubai based company, BCL has completed a prefeasibility study to prove the viability of a range of chemical products including fertilizer, stock feed and detergent soap.
“The feasibility study is now being advanced to bankable stages with sourcing of raw materials as a key priority. It is anticipated that the study will be completed by December 2015,” Mahupela said.
The company’s Divisional Manager for Corporate Strategy, Mark William said the project, which could require a capital expenditure of $300 milliion, will endeavor to fix the environment while making money at the same time. William said after carrying out the bankable feasibility study they will then mobilize fundingÔÇösomething that could take a year.
“We have to pass the gate of bankable feasibility study first,” he said.
Through its Polaris II strategy, BCL will come up with a number of projects that are aimed at boosting economic activity and creating jobs in Selebi-Phikwe and surrounding areas.
“Discussions are at an advanced stage with various international financial institutions to explore options for the Polaris II projects. BCL is in the middle of discussions with the African Development Bank (AfDB) with a view to financing establishment of a metallurgical and chemical hub in southern Africa by funding some of the BCL projects,” revealed Mahupela.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) National Resource and Environment has in the past raised concerns about the BCL smelter as a polluter.
“The planet’s second largest single emitter of sulphur dioxide is Selibe Phikwe, a mining town in Botswana, where a copper-nickel smelter emits sulphur dioxide into the air. When sulphur dioxide combines with rain water, sulphuric acid is formed. Sulphiric acid is highly corrosive and, as a result, kills vegetation and corrodes infrastructure,” said the organization.