In its quarterly report for the quarter ended March 31, the group said opencast mining activities started during the period under review, and 192 000 cubic metres of waste was removed from the South Pit.
First reef production is expected to take place during the next quarter.
Underground mining contractor Shaft Sinkers started with site establishment in preparation for the decline development, which began this month.
The construction programme for the mine, situated some 30 km west of Lydenburg, in Mpumalanga, is proceeding as planned, with civil construction and erection of steel structures having started.
“The portal and process plant platforms earthworks and excavation were completed during the quarter. Engineering, design and procurement activities are proceeding in parallel. Project execution is on track for hot commission during December 2005,” the group stated.
Everest is scheduled to mine and process 250 000 t a month of UG2 ore to produce 225 000 oz of platinum-group metals (PGM) a year, at steady state. Full production should be reached in 2006.
It is planned that the reef will be accessed from a terrace, and will be mined underground towards the Dwarsrivier valley. About 165 000 oz of PGMs will be produced during ramp-up. The predicted life-of-mine is 12 years.
Aquarius also reported that the implementation of social upliftment and sustainable livelihood projects are ongoing, with the removal of alien plants and a nutritional feeding scheme implemented during the period.
“Contractor recruitment of local labour is proving beneficial to the community with 327 local people employed during the period,” the group revealed.
The Everest capital budget is R819-million, including a R33-million allowance for escalation, and project capital expenditure commitments were R454-million at the end of the quarter, with capital expenditure paid to date of R74-million.
Along with its Kroondal mine, the two projects are key to delivering strong growth and a superior production profile for Aquarius.
Meanwhile, during the quarter, Aquarius achieved total attributable production of PGMs to the group of 78 122 oz and 223 836 oz for the nine months to March 31, 2005.
Consolidated earnings for the three months to March 31 were $5,97-million, bringing earnings for the nine months ended March 31 to $11,98-million.
The increased earnings achieved in this quarter can be attributed to both an improved performance at Marikana, which achieved a 5% cash margin compared to a negative gross cash margin of 30% for the six months to December 2004, and a continued strong performance at both Kroondal and Mimosa, the group said.
Cash earnings before depreciation and amortisation were $12,2-million for the quarter and $29,4-million for the nine months ended March 31.