Theoretical and practical aspects of Cr(VI) in the South Africa ferrochrome industry
Van Zyl, P.G.
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The production of ferrochrome alloy from chromium bearing chromite ores is conducted at high temperature under highly reducing conditions. However, albeit completely unintended, it is impossible to completely exclude oxygen from all high temperature process steps, with the corresponding possibility arising for the generation of small amounts of Cr(VI) species. Certain Cr(VI) species are regarded as a carcinogenic, with specifically airborne exposure to these Cr(VI) species being associated with cancer of the respiratory system. With approximately three-quarters of the world’s viable chromite ore reserves located in South Africa, and annual ferrochrome production approaching almost half of total annual global output, aspects of Cr(VI) generation and control are of particular relevance and importance to the local industry, and naturally to the global industry at large. This paper seeks to examine theoretical and practical aspects associated with Cr(VI) generation (based largely on experience within the local South African industry, but considered to be generally encountered in the broader global industry context), together with mitigating measures that can be applied within the context of the production processes. From the discussions it is clear that significant improvements in various Cr(VI)-related aspects have been made by the South African ferrochrome industry. However, it is also evident that several areas of uncertainty still exist, which require further research in order to better quantify risks and enhance the efficacy of mitigating steps