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      Steel plant processing technology, equipment and services specialist SMS Siemag, a division of SMS group, supplier of processing technology, equipment and services for the ferrous, ferroalloy and nonferrous metals industries, says there is potential to establish new steel plants in Africa in the next five years and hopes to capitalise on these developments.

      SMS Siemag South Africa MD Pieter Bezuidenhout believes that, through its office in Johannesburg, SMS group is well placed to provide processing plant equipment for new and existing steel mills and metallurgical processing plants in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, as well as in East and West Africa.He says that market studies, undertaken by SMS group over the past three years, indicate that between now and 2020, there will be a substantial increase in the shortfall between the amount of steel produced in Africa and the amount of steel that the continent will require.
      Additionally, SMS Siemag director Klaus Schmale adds that smelter engineering firm Metix, a division of SMS Siemag, is particularly interested in assisting SADC governments to beneficiate base materials such as iron-ore, chrome, manganese, nickel, lead, zinc and copper.Bezuidenhout notes that SMS group is also in frequent discussions with State-owned finance corporation the Industrial Development Corporation about all new initiatives pertaining to beneficiation plants.“It is important for us to support the beneficiation programmes of the South African government and other Southern African governments,” he states.Bezuidenhout adds that SMS group is in discussions with many Southern African governments at various levels regarding the supply of processing technologies to assist in implementing beneficiation strategies.
       Schmale points out that SMS group has workshop partners in South Africa and the group has a long-term plan to establish its own workshop capacity in the country within the next three years.“Some of our make-or-buy (MOB) Level 1 components will always be manufactured from SMS group’s key workshops, in Düsseldorf and Hilchenbach, in Germany; however, the SMS group manufactures all non-Level 1 MOB components at various locations worldwide,” he says.SMS group’s clients in South Africa include steel producer ArcelorMittal South Africa, JSE-listed steel group Evraz Highveld Steel & Vanadium, JSE-listed aluminium products manufacturer Hulamin, national oil company PetroSA, South African steel products manufacturer Scaw Metals, energy and petrochemicals group Sasol, all South African ferrochrome producers, such as Samancor, Hernic Ferrochrome, International Ferro Metals and Glencore, as well as integrated titanium-ore and titanium dioxide producer Tronox and flat stainless steel products manufacturer Columbus Stainless.SMS group also provides these companies with process plant technologies, equipment, components, spare parts and technical services.Schmale says, for example, that SMS group is providing equipment for Glencore-Merafe Chrome Venture’s Lion Ferrochrome Complex Phase 2 (Lion II) expansion project, in Limpopo.
      The 360 000 t/y Lion II will increase Glencore-Merafe Chrome Venture’s total installed capacity to more than 2.3-million tons a year. SMS group has supplied electrode columns to the smelting plant, which was successfully commissioned at end of May this year.Schmale points out that, in the past three years, SMS group invested a “significant eight-digit amount of euros” in its Hilchenbach workshop to improve the facility’s operational efficiencies.Schmale states that SMS group also invests a “significant eight-digit amount of euros” in research and development each year and is developing several new technologies for the steel- and metal-producing industry.SMS group is prototyping a primary energy melting (PEM) unit, which will be used for primary materials such as scrap metals.
       “The PEM is a new, cost-effective, ecofriendly shaft furnace for melting scrap, which exclusively uses primary energy. The heat flows out of the shaft through a tap on the side into a second vessel and this is where the required final temperature is set,” says Schmale, who adds that the first PEM unit was installed at a test facility in Europe, in March.“Once the trials have been completed in the next 12 to 18 months, we intend to make PEM available for other customers,” he adds.Schmale points out that another new development of SMS group is the steady electric arc furnace (S-EAF), which is a combination of electric arc furnace (EAF) and steady arc furnace technology, featuring the continuous melting of various raw materials, without the need for frequent power-off times which occur in conventional EAFs.
       “This new technology results in lowest energy requirements and drastically reduced disturbances to the electrical grid, which is a substantial benefit for Africa,” he concludes.

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