PRETORIA (miningweekly.com) – A complex uranium and power project, which is progressing in the renowned Springbok Flats area of Limpopo province, is being developed by unlisted company HolGoun, headed by former Department of Public Enterprises director-general (DG) and former Bateman CEO Dr Sivi Gounden.
Controlling shareholder HolGoun is also the second-largest shareholder of Samancor Chrome and has mining rights for a mid-sized thermal coal project.
The Springbok Flats orebody has been studied for the last six years in conjunction with the State-owned minerals research enterprise, Mintek, to find ways of separating the uranium, originally thought to be in the coal, from what turns out to be its real host – a shale layer above the coal.
“We’ve made very good progress in that regard,” Gounden told Mining Weekly Online in the attached video interview.
HolGoun Uranium & Power foresees a production capacity of two-million pounds of uranium oxide (U3O8) a year and a power generation capacity of 660 MW as a by-product from the process – effectively two products out of one orebody.
“That’s the thinking on this project,” said Gounden, adding that as the company progresses the project, it becomes more viable because of South Africa’s growing demand for electricity from organisations, including mining companies, seeking security of supply.
Much work still has to be done to advance the project from its current feasibility stage.
A small pilot demonstration plant is likely once the project proceeds into the bankable feasibility study stage.
Desktop analysis and mini-scale testing of each of the unit processes has already given the company confidence that the process will work in its totality.
“That’s the way mining is going now. It’s about taking unit processes and bolting them together in a particular format,” Gounden added.
The project has now reached the stage of bringing in complementary funding from interested parties. HolGoun’s funded the confirmatory drilling and the initial project stages.
The company’s large uranium resource covers 56 862 ha in the Limpopo province, 100 km north of Gauteng.
The property has been extensively explored and HolGoun is the holder of an extensive database of 1 800 boreholes, which were drilled on the property by former Gencor company TransNatal.
The South African Mineral Resource Committee- (Samrec-) compliant resource contains 218-million pounds of U3O8.
The first priority will be to get the power project up and running and to liberate the uranium from stockpiles at a future stage.
Strong interest is being shown in the power component, which is expected to be able to produce at 32c/kWh, making it highly competitive even as a standalone project without the uranium credits.
The project has the support of both the Department of Energy and the Department of Mineral Resources.
HolGoun has acquired the data of the considerable work done by TransNatal in the seventies.
The historical data is being digitised and being made Samrec-compliant through complementary drilling.
HolGoun has also been given the benefit of considerable process engineering work for the extraction of the uranium.
Mintek’s testwork has ensured optimal processing and the need now is to scale up.
The company’s separate Canyon Springs thermal coal project, also in the Springbok Flats area, is expected to produce 2.5-million tons of coal a year.
This will be developed as an openpit mine with the production of thermal coal for local power stations and coal for the export market.
“We believe it is well-positioned to supply coal to the Johannesburg-Pretoria complex,” he added.