A review of legislative and safety requirements for running the titanium-production pilot plant at Anglo Research

Yumba, Nomsa
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Anglo Research is due to commission a novel pilot plant for the manufacturing of titanium metal from ilmenite ore. The process requires the use of hydrofluoric acid, a very toxic chemical, in large volumes. A health and environmental study and legislative requirements of the process were thus required before commencing with the plant design. Metallurgical processes have resulted in some degree of environmental impact, from water, air and soil pollution. A prominent example is acid mine drainage, which pollutes ground water. It is therefore important to ensure that proper steps are taken in minimising or mitigating negative environmental effects when developing new process routes. Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is classified as extremely toxic. This acid is very aggressive physiologically because of the fluoride ion which penetrates the skin and robs the bone tissue of calcium. Because of the hazardous nature of HF, the following legislations were reviewed: o Hazardous Substances Act 15 of 1973 o Occupational Health & Safety Act of 1993 o National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996: Chapter VIII o National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 o Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1989 HF has been used in many other industrial applications including manufacturing of fluorocarbons and other chemicals, aluminium manufacturing, petroleum alkylation and uranium purification. Steps should be taken to minimise exposure to hydrofluoric acid in areas where there is a likelihood of worker exposure. Control measures include, but are not limited to, elimination/substitution and process modification, isolation, engineering controls, administrative controls, and use of personal protective equipment and hazard communication. HF is corrosive to most metals and materials of construction suitable for HF include fluoropolymers and other metal alloys such as nickel based alloy 400. Every design aspect of the plant must be done in a way that minimises the environmental and worker exposure to HF. Once safety of the plant design has been extensively reviewed, the pilot plant can then be built. The success of this campaign will be based not only on the achievement of process and product specification, but also on whether it was run without any incidents.
Hydrofluoric acid, Titanium metallurgy