According to Engineering News, the money has been given to the CSIR’s Titanium Centre of Competence (TiCoC), and of the R100 million, The CSIR currently uses a method comprising titanium metal powder that can be sintered together to directly produce mill products, such as tubes, sheets or bars. From here, strong, lightweight parts are made, such as for the automotive, medical or aerospace industries.

R29 million will be spent on building a pilot plant to produce titanium powder at a rate of 2 kg/h by April 2013. Construction of the CSIR’s pilot plant is to be followed by a semi-commercial test facility producing 500 t of titanium powder a year. Such a facility would represent the first step in the industrialisation of the new process and include the involvement of commercial partners.

South Africa has the world’s second-largest titanium-bearing resources in the world, after Australia, but it does not produce any metal.

“We recently received the go-ahead and the funding for the plant,” CSIR materials science and manufacturing light metals research group leader Dr David van Vuuren said. “Our primary activities all centre around efforts to make powder from the titanium-bearing mineral. We also want to make it cheaper for the end-user. We can save an estimated 25% in costs by using powder to go directly to mill products.”