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CeBER Seminar 2016 #8: Dr James Mwase

Dr James Mwase
Dr James Mwase

CeBER Seminar 2016 #8

Date: 22nd April

Guest Speaker: Dr James Mwase

With good humour and sentiment our very own James Mwase delivered his last CeBER seminar today.  James has been in the Chemical Engineering Department at UCT for 9 years and now bids us farewell as he leaves next week for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Belgium.  Firstly, we congratulate James on submitting his PhD two weeks ago.  James is originally from Zambia where he did a BSc.  He then worked in industry before doing a postgraduate diploma in Industrial Administration at UCT.  He then joined Prof Jochen Petersen in Chemical Engineering for an MSC working in hydrometallurgy.  His work on leaching Platinum Group Metals (PGM) from mined ore was patented and led into PhD research.  Work in the hydrometallurgy group at UCT involved developing a two-stage heap leaching process (bioleaching followed by cyanide leaching) to extract PGMs from ore as an alternative to conventional methods. This led to a more focused study on the mineral sperrylite (PtAs2) which proved resistant to processing through this alternative route.  In his seminar today James also talked about some interesting aspects of the PGM industry.  Platinum, palladium and rhodium are the most commercially significant of the PGMs, which are used in a wide range of applications, including vehicle catalysts industrial catalysts, surgical implants, jewellery, aerospace engineering and others.  As much as 98% of PGM reserves are found in South Africa, and three out of the four largest PGM producers are in South Africa (Anglo Platinum, Impala and Lonmin).  However, only 60% of the world’s PGMs come from this country, meaning that South Africa is not yet fully exploiting our rich PGM reserves.  Heap leaching of these metals eliminates the need for lengthier metal processing steps, lowers costs, lowers risk and improves water and energy management.  CeBER would like to thank James for his interesting seminar, and wish him the very best for his new adventures in Belgium.