BUSINESS WRITER 13 April 2017
HARARE – A consotium led by Arkein Industrial Holdings (Arkein) and
Mauritius-based DBF Capital (DBF) is spearheading the construction of a
Rand 4 billion (about $300 million) titanium oxide plant in South Africa
(SA)’s Richards Bay industrial zone to feed the region’s paint market.
While the former is headed by Zimbabwean-born businessman Donovan
Chimhandamba, the latter is owned by serial entrepreneurs and the
ex-African Banking Corporation founding trio of Doug Munatsi, Francis
Dzanya and Bhekithemba Moyo.
“This project marks a major milestone in the development of the titanium
mineral value chain, not only in South Africa but in Africa as a whole
since Huntsman announced the closure of its Umbogontwini plant which
resulted in significant job losses,” the Arkein boss and chief executive
of Johannesburg-based Nyanza Light Metals (Nyanza) said.
Chimhandamba said they would be utilising waste steel slag from the Evraz
Highveld (Evraz) and Vanadium plants that has been stockpiling at its
Witbank operations since 1965.
The Witbank slag, feasibility studies show, has some 45 million tonnes of
owe and equating to nearly 200 years of project life.
With titanium dioxide pigment being the mostly used white pigment in the
world – accounting for about 70 percent of the global market – it is also
used in the production of coatings, cosmetics, foods, some papers and
plastics due to its unique opacifying and whitening capabilities.
And experts say universal demand for this key industrial commodity is
estimated at six million-plus tonnes, equating to some $15 billion, with
the paints and coatings sector accounting for more than 57 percent of
In 2011, titanium dioxide pigment prices reached $4,300 per tonne.
SA, meanwhile, consumes around 35 000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of titanium
pigment, mainly in the paint manufacturing business or sector.
Thus the Nyanza project will produce 50 000 tonnes of titanium dioxide
pigment per annum, which will be sold locally, exported across Africa and
the Middle East.
According to company officials, the transcontinental agreements between
Nyanza and its partners followed a successful pre-feasibility study –
coupled with piloting analyses – conducted between 2015, and 2017 by the
As it is, it is hoped that nearly 550 permanent and 1,200 indirect jobs
would be created when the plant is fully operational, and 800 being
created during construction of the huge Richards Bay plant.
While construction or building of the factory is expected to commence in
2018 – with production scheduled to start in 2020 – the project
anticipates bringing in new technology to SA and help the government’s
industrialisation programme as well as efforts to add value to the South
African mining sector, and general processing value chain.
Avertana, which has developed a proprietary process to extract titanium
from the waste steel slag, refines titanium as well as other industrial
minerals and chemicals from steel waste, with a lower carbon footprint
than existing processes and with minimal residual waste.
And Chimhandamba said that with the New Zealand technological processes,
Nyanza will also produce aluminium sulphate, magnesium sulphate and gypsum
“The overall manufacturing process is novel and unique and will be a world
first. This is largely because conventional processes use purer feed
stocks such as rutile and ilmenite, which have titanium content ranging
from 50 percent to 96 percent while Nyanza’s feed stock has a TiO2 content
of 32 percent or less,” the youthful engineer and investor said.
“The focus of the feasibility studies has been to develop a unique process
and demonstrate that we could use this waste steel slag and produce a
world-class grade pigment,” Chimhandamba said.
About six years ago, Nyanza appointed Hatch – a leading engineering,
procurement and construction company – to perform scoping, and conceptual
studies on the possibility of extracting titanium from the Evraz and
Vanadium dumps, and turning it into a highly-valuable and sought-after
“…Nyanza has produced titanium dioxide pigment at a pilot scale and the
economic, and financial modeling shows that (it) will be a low-cost
producer… as it is using a waste material compared to the expensive
conventional sources of titanium dioxide,” Chimhandamba said.
Thus, successful implementation of the project would result in Africa
having access to manufacturing technology predominantly used in the
American and European markets as well as recycling of materials to
generate other high-value products, among other things.