JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Africa’s true scale of business opportunities, particularly those in South Africa’s rich natural resources sector, were underexplored, Vedanta Resources chairperson Anil Agarwal outlined here during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit on Friday.
The head of the Indian natural resources company, with interests in oil and gas, zinc-lead-silver, copper, iron-ore, aluminium and commercial energy, was part of the delegation accompanying Modi, and announced that Vedanta would be signing two memorandums of understanding with South African companies.
He also pledged to continue to invest in what he termed “our greenfield project” at Gamsberg, in the Northern Cape, which hosts one of the world’s largest undeveloped zinc sulphide deposits, with some 160-million tonnes of defined ore resources.
Last year Vedanta injected $400-million into the Gamsberg zinc project at Black Mountain Mining (BMM), where it has significantly extended the reserves of the Southern African zinc assets it bought from a disinvesting Anglo American five years ago, achieving full payback of the original investment well ahead of the deal’s key Gamsberg asset coming into play.
Since 2004, the London-listed company has invested more than $4-billion in Africa, where it mines copper in Zambia, produces zinc and lead concentrate at BMM and zinc metal at Skorpion Zinc in Namibia.
Last year was not an easy time to be starting a zinc mine but Vedanta’s timing has proved opportune in that zinc, which has been unloved for so long, is back in fashion.
Groundbreaking at Gamsberg signalled the start of the development of a 250 000 t/y opencast zinc mine, concentrator plant and associated infrastructure at the mining town of Aggeneys, 113 km north-east of Springbok, where Vedanta is engaged in a multiyear $782-million Southern African Gamsberg-Skorpion integrated zinc project.
The project includes an integrated roaster at the Skorpion Zinc refinery in Namibia, which is able to turn zinc sulphide deposits from Gamsberg mine into high-grade zinc, and also extend the life of the Skorpion zinc operation, which was previously earmarked for closure.
“We’re particularly excited about the potential from Gamsberg, which will replace depleted production from other mines,” was the comment to Mining Weekly Online of Deshnee Naidoo, the South African CEO of Vedanta Zinc International, at last year’s Gamsberg launch.
The Durban-born Naidoo made that comment in reference to this year’s final shipment of zinc from Vedanta Resources' Lisheen mine in Ireland – also acquired from Anglo American – which brought to an end the flow of 120 000 t of zinc a year from Ireland’s now-closed Tipperary province mine.
Agarwal expressed certainty that Modi’s visit would herald “an even more prosperous future for India and the African continent” and added that the memorandums of understanding with South African companies would be for the development and supply of equipment and the transfer of technology that would improve safety and productivity at the mechanised underground mines of Vedanta’s subsidiary, Hindustan Zinc Limited, where 125 South Africans are employed on sites across India.
Vedanta has to date awarded projects worth nearly $300-million to South Africa-based companies in the belief that its Gamsberg project as well as investment in technology and innovation with local partners will help to improve the livelihoods of local communities in both India and South Africa.
BMM is the Bushmanland and Namaqua region’s biggest employer, with an employee complement of 1 300, Vedanta said in a release to Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly Online.
With Gamsberg located in the ecologically sensitive Succulent Karoo Biome, which represents one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots, Naidoo has committed the company to a long-term plan to rehabilitate the region’s rich biodiversity and to grow the local economy and create jobs.
The company is determined that all closure processes will reflect global best practice.