In the mining industry, fine coal dust can be a major environmental disadvantage, but thanks to an industrial mixer supplied by local distributor Birkenmayer to collieries in Mpumalanga, South Africa, these ultra-fines can be turned into coal briquettes. Collieries can effectively capitalise on the growing global demand for alternative coal-based heating products. This has eliminated the need to dispose of millions of tonnes of coal dust – mitigating environmental concerns as well as generating income for the colliery.

“To create coal briquettes suitable for resale, it was essential to achieve a consistent briquette standard for ease of handling, packaging, storage and transportation,” Louis Eksteen, business development manager at Birkenmayer, says. “Eirich intensive mixers feature the only technology on the market capable of delivering near perfectly homogenised results in very short mixing periods; facilitating predictability and the consistent quality standard that was required for the project to be viable.”

The mixing process involves the dispersion of a binding agent and coal fines. It also granulates the coal dusts even further, which helps to achieve enough flowability for the mixture to fill the briquette roller pockets.

The first briquette manufacturing plants are expected to produce an output of 50 tonnes an hour of processed coal products. At current commodity prices, this means a return on investment period of about two years. These plants are considered to be the most technologically-advanced of its kind.

The reconstituted coal products will be marketed to local domestic users, including the ceramics and agricultural industries. The companies are further examining the possibilities of exporting to Europe and the Far East for use in power plants, while also considering supplying Eskom in the future.