BCL Mine’s recent acquisition of x-ray fluorescent thermo scientific analytic technology will provide the Botswana’s copper/nickel mine with the cutting-edge for the cheapest and most accurate mineral exploration and geochemical analysis at the click of a button, says the South African-based United Spectrometer Technologies (UST) Application Specialists, Phillip Greeff.
According to Greeff, the hand-held Thermo Scientific Niton Analyzer (TSNA) ranging in price, depending on mode of specification, from US $20 000 to US $40 000 (P170 000 to P340 000), has become an indispensible tool for providing instantaneous results, reducing time delays and avoiding expenses of shipping samples long distances to offsite-laboratories.
Furthermore, TSNA prototypes are splash and dust proof with a life span of two to three years, depending on handling. The only consumable is the window, which has an invariably shorter timeframe use.
Speaking to Sunday Standard in Gaborone recently, Greeff, who holds a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Geology, said when BCL Mine in Selebi Phikwe bought TSNA’s from the SA-based UST in March 2013, he had to hold two to three hour training and familiarization sessions with the incumbent personnel, who demonstrated proficiency in handling and field trials.
“The US technology is one of the mining sector market’s latest but also user friendly, fairly accurate and flexible. The gismo’s benefits at-a-glance include instant geochemistry analysis for ore, rock, drill core, chips and rock face; drastic reduction of the number of samples sent for outside testing; decision-making tools at finger tips; and instantaneous ore concentration tracking.”
The portable US-made equipment, apart from being instantaneous, also provides simultaneous analysis of more than 25 elements, including rare earth minerals.
Rare Earth elements (REEs) including Actinium, Cerium, Europium, Gadolinium, Lanthanum, Neodymium, Praseodymium, Samarium, Terbium and Yttrium are commonly used in consumer electronics such as televisions, cameras, mobile phones, automobile catalytic inverters and rechargeable batteries due to their unique optical and magnetic properties.
REES are also known as the ‘green elements’ because of their essentiality to green energy technologies.”
Apart from Botswana, other countries that have acquired the Analyzers include the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Zambia.
In 2013, while on a business follow-up trip to Sierra Leone as a result of the purchase of TSNA’s, the 25-year-old Greeff was touched by the homely and friendly attitude of the people despite having suffered genocide, mutilation and strife during the 1991 to 2002 internecine civil war. According to Greeff, without access to TSNA’s, Sierra Leone’s absence of relevant infrastructure and viable transport network provided a classic example of the huge cost implications, time delays of up to three months and unreliability of geochemical analysis emanating from tempering with samples.
“I met a welcoming one-legged footballer in Freetown, the capital city. It was a shocking spectacle to see the absence of electricity, reticulated water supplies and supportive residential and business infrastructure.
“My next visit to the calamite and tantalite-rich Kamachiri, further up in the north of the country, where I spent less than a week, replicates a more horrendous experience for people with similar urbanized lifestyles. The vast expanse of jungle and swamp coupled with the humidity and enervating heat, made work unbearable. My plea is for the more financial stable neighbours such as Nigeria and Ghana to come to the country’s rescue in terms of infrastructure development, now that peace prevails in the country.”
Greeff said although UST made its maiden appearance in the 2013 Botswana Resource Sector Conference, the tremendous amount of interest the mining community has shown in the acquisition of TSNA’s compulsively persuades its participation in subsequent events.
SA scientific engineer Jacque le Roux, who formed UST in 1994, went into a joint venture with mining analyst, Ingo Steinhage. The company, employing 40 personnel, has a head office in Cape Town as well as branches specializing in Scientific Research, Sales and Marketing in Durban and Johannesburg, respectively.