Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb (DPMT) says since acquiring the copper smelter it has spent N$5 billion on improving environmental controls, including better arsenic handling, a state-of-the-art waste disposal site and a sulphuric acid plant.
Responding to questions from New Era, DPMT confirmed that it produces about 4 200 tonnes of arsenic trioxide per year, of which around 3 200 tonnes are exported to Malaysia and about 600 tonnes to South Africa. Arsenic trioxide is a byproduct of smelting complex ore concentrates.
According to DPMT’s spokesperson, Alina Garises, the smelter in Tsumeb was specifically designed to safely process arsenic-bearing concentrates due to the high presence of natural arsenic in northern Namibia. Garises explained that where the arsenic is stored depends on whether it is sold or deposited in DPMT’s licensed waste storage site.
“If it is being sold it is kept in special storage facilities in advance of shipment. If it is meant for our waste storage site it is put into bags, which are kept wet to reduce the risk of airborne dust. The bags are then compacted and buried in our licensed waste disposal site. The site is licensed by the government, regularly inspected and is similar to comparable hazardous waste facilities around the world,” Garises remarked.
Garises also confirmed that the Chelopech mine in Bulgaria is one of the Dundee Precious Metal Group’s mines, of which DPMT is the processing plant. “The concentrate is brought to our smelter, because it can safely process complex concentrates. There are smelters in other countries around the world, where complex concentrates can be processed, but Bulgaria is not one, as it does not have a smelter as technologically advanced as ours,” she added.
Meanwhile, DPMT confirmed that it sells the arsenic to clients in Asia and South Africa, where it is used to manufacture pesticides, herbicides and wood preservatives. “Other countries, such as Belgium, Japan and Russia produce and sell arsenic compounds globally too, and supply to industries as varied as the pharmaceutical and information technology sectors. Namibia is a relatively small producer of this arsenic product,” Garises said.