Wash Plant Opening
How a new wash plant injected innovation and growth into Walvis Bay Salt Holdings.
Salt of the earth
THE NEW WASH PLANT SAW A PROJECT COST OF N$93.6M RESULTING IN 220 TONS OF SALT BEING PROCESSED PER HOUR AND 4 750 TONS PER DAY, AT 90% OEE
Throughout history salt has played a dramatic and pivotal role through trade routes, voyages of discovery, power struggles, religious ceremonies, agriculture, medical treatments and more. Not to mention adding taste to make the most delicious dishes in the world.
At Walvis Bay Salt Holdings (WBSH) in Walvis Bay, Namibia, salt is literally of the earth. Harvested from the sea, the salt mine covers over 6,000 hectares of land, producing some 900,000 tonnes of processed salt per year. All it needs is seawater, sunshine and wind – luckily in plentiful supply in the area.
As Africa’s largest sub-Saharan salt mine, the traditional core business of Walvis Bay Salt Refiners (WBSR) is to produce, process and market solar sea salt in both bulk and bag formats for the local and international markets. The crude solar salt WBSR produces needs to be upgraded by being washed and processed to remove impurities such as calcium, magnesium and insolubles and to reduce the moisture content, in order to meet a wide range of client’s specifications.
Andre is upbeat about the opportunities to generate revenue from this low price commodity. “To be succesful there are a few key points – you must have volume, you must be in control of your logistics and have high economy of scale benefits in terms of your volumes,” he explains. “People think all salt is the same. That’s not true. Salt is not salt. It gets graded and you must have the ability to provide the correct technical specifications to a wide variety of markets.” As Andre explains, five years ago the company didn’t have that ability, but now, due to a new wash plant being installed, they do.
Internal innovation and growth
After a salt field expansion in 2015, WBSH required the ability to wash up to 1,200,000 tons of crude salt per year. The previous wash plant, which was constructed in 1989 and had reached the end of its life, had to operate at very high OEE levels, 365 days per year, 24 hours per day in order to meet salt field capacity and market demand. In addition, the facility had constraints such as a too small intake hopper, limited centrifuge capabilities and a relatively high operating cost per ton.
The biggest improvements of the new processing plant are anticipated to be lower processing losses, a drier product, lower power consumption, as well as the fact
that the larger plant intake capabilities will support harvesting and haulage operations at a constant feed rate. This investment enhances international sales and marketing efforts by offering a wider range of product specifications from a lower cost base. Added to the fact that the new plant increases the processing capacity of salt from
120 to 220 tons per hour, it also brings the benefit of improved product quality in terms of lower insolubles, lower calcium and magnesium levels, and in general improves the company’s ability to produce chemical grade product.
“Initially the new wash plant has had a few challenges but we have met them all,” says Andre. “The WBSR site is located in the Kuiseb river delta close to the sea, which made it necessary to cast raft foundations
on a sand basis just 300mm above the water level on the site. The harsh, highly corrosive environmental conditions also required special design and standards to ensure a plant life of more than 30 years.”
By investing in the new wash plant, WBSH have seen improvements all round. The new wash plant requires lower operator input, making more time available for monitoring, measuring and maintenance work. The capital investment of N$93.6M ensures sufficient salt processing capacity in order to target various international markets with confidence as they can meet the ever- increasing international specifications. “We think of ourselves as salt farmers,” says Andre. “This new plant makes our efforts more effective and sustainable and it wouldn’t have been possible without a great multi-national design team with extensive knowledge of salt and the conditions on the Walvis Bay Salt Refiners’ site behind it.”
- Salt was one of the greatest treasures of the ancient world.
- Man found his way to salt by following animal paths to salt licks and so salt trails developed.
- The oldest known salt production site is in the city of Provadia, Bulgaria, dating from about 4,500 years BC.
- Salt was used as currency in ancient Rome, and the roots of the words ‘soldier’ and ‘salary’ can be traced
- to Latin words related to giving or receiving salt.
- Salt taxes and monopolies have led to wars and protests everywhere from China to France, India and parts of Africa.
- Salt has had cultural and religious significance in every religion from Buddhism to Christianity. Salt is mentioned often in the bible, most famously when Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.
- Salt was so valuable it was traded for slaves, which is the origin of the expression ‘not worth his salt’ or ‘not worth his weight in salt.’
- Someone who is the ‘salt of the earth’ is a dependable, unpretentious person, a saying which originated from the bible.
- ‘Salting the earth,’ however, refers to an ancient military tactic of plowing fields with salt so that no crops could be grown.
- Salt could mean life or death when it was used to preserve meat and food.
- Superstitions around salt had people believing that spilling salt meant bad luck. Throwing a pinch of salt over your left shoulder was a way to cast off the evil.
- taking something with a ‘pinch of salt’ means remaining sceptical about its truth, which relates to the fact that salt makes everything more palatable.
PEOPLE THINK ALL SALT IS THE SAME. THAT’S NOT TRUE. SALT IS NOT SALT. IT GETS GRADED AND YOU MUST HAVE THE ABILITY TO PROVIDE THE
CORRECT TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
TO A WIDE VARIETY OF MARKETS.’
WBSH Managing Director
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