By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent
PLATINUM mining conglomerate, Zimplats has poured US$90 000 towards a research to identify alternative and sustainable uses of furnace slug accumulating at its operations in Ngezi and Selous.
The research project, which will run for 33-months, will be conducted by Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) students and three lecturers from Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT), which recently commissioned laboratory equipment donated by the mining giant.
Mountains of furnace slug around Zimplats operations pose an environmental threat to flora, fauna and human beings as leeching of heavy metals takes place into nearby water bodies.
Zimplats managing director Stanley Segula said his firm partnered CUT in-order to find alternative and sustainable uses of slug dumps, which continue growing and threatening the environment’s well-being.
“As a global outfit, we want to get our emissions, including SO2 (carbon) to international standards. That’s why its so important for Zimplats to partner institutions of higher learning such as CUT and UZ (University of Zimbabwe),” said Segula.
“We are the largest Platinum Group Metals (PGM) producer in Zimbabwe, operating two concentrators at Ngezi and Selous. You will note that for every tonne of what we call matt, 13 tonnes of slug is produced, hence the slug dumps will continue to grow as operations continue.”
Segula emphasised Zimplats was wary of the environmental danger the mine effluent poses.
Furnace slug can potentially be mixed with lime or cement to make strong construction materials such as building blocks, pavers and road surfacers.
The research team’s goals are envisioned to dovetail with Zimplats’ value of innovative.
Added Segula: “The slug dumps pose environmental risks as they take significant land space. In line with our value of care of working safely and smartly, while caring for the environment and making a positive contribution to society, thus the collaboration with CUT is testament of our core values and quest to develop alternative, sustainable use of waste.
“We are a highly mechanised operation that values innovation as key to achieve our objectives as a leading mining operation in the global mining industry. At the centre of how we operate is our purpose, which is to create better value and better future through the way we do business, and this is the better future for our stakeholders.”
Speaking on the partnership, CUT vice chancellor, David Jambgwa Simbi underscored the need to research and commercialise products derived from mine waste.
He said crafting tailor-made products from waste dumps has potential to create downstream industries that rely on waste as raw materials.
“This is an opportunity to exploit sound waste management practices and realise value in waste by concentrating on the production of useful materials that have profit. Let us look at by-products production as yet another value chain for Zimplats,” said Simbi.
“Not only will projects of this magnitude or nature assist in mining waste management, but will also promote value-addition of our natural resources. This can give rise to a downstream industry which will leverage its raw materials from that which you might call waste.”