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Feature: Been through the mill

With two feasibility studies for the development of zinc recycling plants on the go in the US and Turkey, it has been a busy 12 months for ZincOx.

For some time, the company has been investigating the best way to treat waste produced from the recycling of steel scrap. In November 2004, ZincOx finished a pre-feasibility study for the Aliaga Recycling Project

(ARP) to investigate the development of a plant to extract zinc from electric arc furnace dust (EAFD).

Most steel scrap is galvanised and zinc, as a volatile metal, is an important constituent of EAFD. It amounts to 15-25%, making it an attractive resource. There are three million tonnes of EAFD produced annually around the world. According to ZincOx, the zinc it contains is

not directly recoverable using conventional technology due to the presence of impurities.

The ARP will be developed in two phases. To begin with, almost all the feed will come from steel mills in the industrial zone for the production of around 12,000-15,000 tonnes of zinc oxide per year. These mills produce about five million tonnes of steel annually and this will, in turn, produce around 80,000 tonnes of waste dust each year, with a grade of more than 20% zinc.

After the start of the project, production is expected to double as a result of an expansion to take the remainder of Turkish EAFD.

The capital requirement for the initial development is expected to be around £11 million with the ARP employing around 100 people. The EAFD will be treated using the leaching process LTC to produce zinc oxide that will be sold to industrial customers in Turkey and overseas.

The market for zinc oxide is around one million tonnes per year, and approximately half of this is used by the rubber industry, mainly in tyres. Other outlets include ceramics, oil additives, paints, animal feeds and pharmaceuticals.

Alongside the plant in Turkey, in April, ZincOx completed a preliminary economic study on the MidWest Recycling Project (MWRP) in the US. The company has formed a partnership with Envirosafe Services of Ohio Inc (ESOI), which handles EAFD from all over mainland US.

Under the terms of the partnership, ESOI will be responsible for the delivery of EAFD to the MWRP, collect the residue and be responsible for its stabilisation and disposal. Consequently, the zinc feedstock will be obtained effectively and at no cost.

Again, the EAFD will be treated using the LTC process to produce around 20,000 tonnes of zinc per year for sale direct to industrial consumers in north America. It is expected that output will rise to 30,000 tonnes of zinc oxide by the fourth year of production.

According to ZinxOx, the preliminary economic study, using a zinc price of $1,000 per tonne, has indicated that the project should have a post tax net present value of about £22m and an internal rate of return of 25%.

Andrew Woollett, ZincOx managing director, said:

"The MWRP represents the second recycling project in our global strategy for the treatment of EAFD. It is the most advanced of a number of recycling projects we are working on. Having such excellent economic returns, we believe it will provide a development blueprint that we can replicate elsewhere in the world."

The feasibility study is due for completion this year and production could begin within two years.

Steel from scrap

Around 44% of the world's steel is produced by the recycling of scrap in electric arc furnaces (right), a

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