During my recent visit to China to participate in the CNIA Global Minor Metals Forum (China), I was delighted to be invited to visit the Hunan Jinwang Bismuth Industrial Co Ltd plant in Chenzhou, Hunan Province. After experiencing the wonderful high speed train (for an English person, suffering endless train strikes and a creaking, overcrowded service, this was a great experience in itself), we were met and transported to the factory by car by our hosts. My companion was Fan Li, who many of you may know from Metal Events, and who will be assisting MMTA with Chinese membership development.
The plant is at the forefront in the development of a circular economy operation by extracting bismuth from copper smelting soot, and from all kinds of bismuth-containing waste materials from smelters, and recycling them. In this way, the company has been able to close the loop between production and consumption and ensure the full utilisation of these natural – and valuable – resources, whilst at the same time minimising the negative environmental impacts caused by untreated secondary materials.
Founded in 2001, Hunan Jinwang Bismuth Industrial Co Ltd (Jinwang) has developed rapidly and invested heavily in scientific research and innovation. Walking around the site, there is clearly a great deal of pride in what the company has accomplished in a relatively short period of time. The plant is modern, and the company is looking towards ongoing development of new processes and equipment.
An example is the Xianxi Main Workshop, which provides a cutting edge bismuth smelting process producing lead bullion or lead bismuth alloys, with sulfuric acid as a by-product of the process.
The company’s aim is to establish an ecological industrial park, focussing on the circular economy and supporting the Chinese economy by returning valuable secondary resources to use, as well as contributing to efforts to protect the environment.
The main technology used by the Xianxi factory is the melting of an oxygen-enriched double blow pool, which is the first time such technology has been used in the bismuth smelting processing in the world. The new technology can absorb any kind of bismuth containing materials in the world, and compared to the traditional technology of bismuth processing, it improves processing time and also the ability to process complex material.
So, Jinwang has built one of the largest bismuth smelting and processing enterprises in the world. And the company contributes to the recycling economy and demonstrates clean smelting in the non-ferrous metal smelting enterprises.
It is clear to me that this commitment to the environment is an important company goal, and I’m interested to understand how these environmental goals help to attract employees and inspire them in their work. I’m told that Jinwang’s Chairman Mr.Wu Zuxiang, is very focussed on employee benefits, and health. From his own experience of 20 years ago, when he started his
career, it was from a homemade smelting plant, which was very simple and provided no protection, not even any environmental protection system. At that time, there were hundreds and thousands of these homemade smelting plants in China. So, Mr.Wu decided to change things, which led to him building a new smelting plant and new environment system, to set up a new standard of bismuth smelting plant.
Apart from bismuth in many forms, the plant produces silver, gold and tellurium for a range of metallurgical and industrial processes, as well as operating separate chemical and pharmaceutical plants.
After visiting the main smelter plant, our guests took us to view the chemicals plant – producing bismuth chemicals for a range of salts, coatings and cosmetics, where it provides the pearlescent finishes to many products. Its wide and varied end uses include bismuth oxide, which has uses in electronics, military and medical applications, as well as being a semiconductor, and bismuth subsalicylate, used as an antibacterial.
Bismuth oxide technology: Our hosts explain that ” our production of bismuth oxide is amongst the leading technology in the world – Arc method bismuth vaporization”, which is efficient and offers environmental protection, as well as a reduction in costs. Arc method bismuth vaporization is a direct combination of oxygen in the air, without any subsidiary material. Compared to the traditional, wet bismuth process, it won’t produce any waste material, i.e. waste water and waste gas and other environmental hazards. And even better, the cost is only fifty percent of the traditional process.
The bismuth products produced include bismuth needles, bismuth oxide, bismuth chemicals, bismuth powder and bismuth alloys.
Through the implementation of the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive, bismuth, as the best alternative to lead and chromium, is becoming more and more widely used in the fields of electronic packaging, coatings, semiconductors, nuclear power and sanitary ware.
And finally, we ended our tour in the high-security pharmaceutical plant, where bismuth powders – bismuth aluminate, bismuth potassium citrate, bismuth subnitrate and bismuth subcarbonate – are used in a range of medicines, in particular for the treatment of stomach and intestinal complaints. For obvious safety reasons, there are strict controls on entry to this area, as well as what clothing can be worn. Quality standards are government controlled to ensure compliance with human health regulations.
Following our fascinating tour of the Jinwang factory, our hosts very kindly invited Fan and myself to a wonderful lunch, where we were able to discuss the MMTA and how we can continue improving our support of our Chinese members.
The MMTA wishes to thank everyone at Jinwang for their time and their wonderful hospitality.