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BCL smelter shuts down for refurbishment

ONALENNA KELEBEILE
Mahupela
SELEBI-PHIKWE: The BCL mine’s P700 million smelter shutdown exercise that was penciled for July 1 started in earnest here on Monday.

The delay in the commencement of the shutdown was necessitated by the outstanding delivery of a vital material required for the process, especially items for the waste heat boiler that are being sourced from Europe.

BCL Managing Director, Daniel Mahupela indicated during a special management brief this week that there is, however, no cause for alarm as management has everything under control to achieve the initial planned shutdown time frame of 62 days.

“Other corresponding preparatory activities will continue as planned,” he revealed.

He however, acknowledged that the delay will somewhat impact undesirably on the mine business and as such implications oblige all employees to exercise restraint to contain costs as much as possible.

“This is necessary because no money will be coming in during the shutdown period, hence resources available should be used prudently.

“The purpose of the rebuild is to modernise the BCL smelting furnace to run for a longer service campaign.

“The improvements effected will bolster the smelter with the capability to treat nickel concentrates arising from both the future BCL mineral exploration tenement and the acquisitive tolling opportunities pursued through the Polaris 11 strategy,” he said.

Mahupela recently briefed the media about the main contract for management and execution of the shutdown.

He

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disclosed that it (the contract) was awarded to Kentz Engineers and Contractors through a competitive bidding process pursuant to the BCL internal tender review committee protocols.

The main unit operations impacted by the refurbishment are the flash smelting furnace, waste heat boiler, drying plan, electric furnaces, converters and all the associated ancillary equipment.

“The BCL flash smelting furnace, which operationally determines the life of the smelter, is currently in its 11th year of the present seventh campaign, which is normally seven to eight years in tenure.

“The furnace is already overdue for the overhaul and the campaign of the furnace is limited by the integrity of the cooling systems and attendant refractory wear,” he noted.

Close to 2,000 workers are expected to be engaged by the several contracted companies for the shutdown in addition to 4,500 BCL employees.

The BCL, contractor management and operational structure will be organised to work on a two 12-hour shift work cycle to complete all the planned activities.

Mahupela noted that the balance of the sub- contracted work packages relating to demolitions, mechanical and others have been awarded to both local, domestic and international companies with capacity and capability to execute works of this scope, magnitude and calibre.



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