The Palabora Copper is the only primary copper producer in South Africa. It boasts the secondary products as Magnetite, vermiculite, and anode slimes. Palabora Copper's Chemical laboratory is equipped to do routine sample analysis from a wide range of processing and environmental samples. The laboratory provides the processing plants with up to date analytical results that meets the highest level of acceptable standards. The copper production complex also makes use of secondary consumables that must meet the stringent quality requirements, and the chemical laboratory provides this service. The laboratory consists of a management team, headed by the General Manager: Asset Management. We have a dedicated team of chemical analysts, laboratory supervisors and specialist all headed by the Laboratory Superintendent.

The state of the art equipment include ICP, XRF, LECO and OES instrumentation also encasing traditional techniques as fire assay.

Laboratory Services

Palabora Copper comprises of two Laboratories, the Chemical Laboratory which provides analytical services to the Magnetite and Copper segments and the Vermiculite Laboratory which provides services to the Vermiculite Business. The Chemical and Vermiculite laboratories are equipped to provide analyse, in a safely manner, sample analysis from a wide range of processing and environmental samples.

The laboratory provides the processing plants with analytical results that meet the highest level of acceptable standards, both for quality control and metallurgical accounting purposes. The copper production complex also makes use of secondary consumables that must meet the stringent quality requirements, and the chemical laboratory provides this service.

The laboratory has a competent and dedicated team made up of laboratory operators, analysts, laboratory supervisors and specialists. The laboratory is independent from the business assurance on inputs to metallurgical accounting and process control.

Chemical Laboratory

The Chemical Laboratory two sections, namely; Sample preparation and Routine and Products Section.

Sample Preparation

The sample preparation section carries out preparation and physical analytical requirements of all production and product samples. The following techniques are applied;

  • Determination and reporting of moisture on mined ore, concentrate, reverts and magnetite,
  • Determination and reporting the loss of ignition in plant products,
  • Receiving and preparation of final products materials from Refinery (Coils, Cathodes, Mill scales and Exports.
  • Drawing of 7.9mm coils to 2mm for Elongation and Resistivity testing,
  • Particle size distribution using sieve analysis,
  • Preparation of Development and Lift I & Lift II Growth samples (Head grade analysis) for Copper analysis using grinding, pulverising and splitting laboratory techniques,
  • Determination of sizing both dry and wet on Low and High concentrates and Magnetite samples.
  • Determination and preparation of Underground samples using big jaw crusher.
  • Collection of samples from the plant.
  • Drilling and preparation of Anode Blocks samples from Smelters.




The following equipment/instruments are used at the Sample Preparation;

  • Pulverisers,
  • Ovens,
  • Sieves and shakers,
  • Splitters,
  • Restistometers


Routine and Products

The laboratory is equipped with a spectrum of analytical instruments including ICP, XRF, LECO and OES instrumentation, also encasing traditional techniques such as fire assay.

The routine analytical section, performs the daily production samples from the production and dispatch streams. Typical analysis is carried on the following;

  • Determination of % Copper in plant samples by AAS
  • Determination of Oxygen in Copper metal using LECO Instrument
  • Determination of wear metals in Oils By ICP
  • Determination of Magnetite in Mines and Plant samples
  • Determination of Chlorides in Sulphuric acid by Potentiometric titration
  • Determination of SiO2, Fe, CaO, MgO, S, CuO and Al2O3 in Smelter samples by ICP
  • Determination of Ca, Mg, Fe, Al, K, Ti, Cr and Si in Vermiculite samples by ICP
  • Determination of nickel in copper metal after electrolysis
  • Determination of % Copper in Concentrates by Electrolytic techniques
  • Determination of Ti, Mg, P2O5, Fe and Cu in Magnetite samples
  • Determination of Copper Impurities using Spectrolab/SAFT instrument




The key analytical methods that are used to carry out the analysis are;

  • Inductive Coupled Plasma Analysis
  • Atomic Absorption
  • Auto Titrations
  • LECO
  • X-Ray Fluorescence
  • Davies Tube
  • Electrolytic method


Vermiculite Laboratory

The Vermiculite Laboratory supports the Vermiculite value chain with sample analysis.



The following techniques are applied in executing the services;

  • Determination and reporting of moisture on vermiculite feed during production and final products on request
  • Split and transfer samples into sample bags and container for analysis as per dispatches, mine hole samples and hourly production samples;
  • Conduct sieve/particle size distribution analysis for all different vermiculite products;
  • Exfoliate samples to check the expansion yield.
  • Determine the non-exfoliation material and check the customer specification;
  • Determine % Vermiculite in the feed samples
  • Particle size distribution using sieve analysis,
  • Conduct sieve/ particle size distribution analysis for all different vermiculite products;
  • Exfoliate samples to check the expansion yield and weigh for expansion yield determination;




The following equipment/instruments are used at the Vermiculite Laboratory;

  • Muffle Furnaces
  • Pulverisers,
  • Ovens,
  • Sieves and shakers,
  • Splitters,
  • Analytical grade measuring cylinders
  • The Stereo binocular microscopes and Polarised Light Microscopy.


Quality Assurance and Control (QA/QC)

The Laboratory services prides itself in providing quality assurance and control to all the analysis that are carried out for its customers. The QA/QC process is the set of planned and systematic activities focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled. Good QA/QC within the laboratory provide the following;

  • High Accuracy
  • High Reproducibility
  • Better customer confidence
  • Improved company reputation
  • Ability to meet regulatory standards
  • Enhanced safety


ISO/IEC 17025:2017 Accreditation



The Laboratory is ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited for Determination and Identification of Asbestos Fibres by Polarised Light Microscope (PLM), determination of copper in plant samples using by AAS and determination of impurities in copper metal by Spark-OES thereby demonstrating its ability and competency to issue certificate of analysis (COA) for all our products.

PALABORA COPPER (PTY) LIMITED
Phalaborwa, Limpopo , South Africa
T: +27 (0)15 780 2911
PO Box 65, 1 Copper Road, 1389
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