BOTSWANA (miningweekly.com) – The first opencast coal mine in Botswana, Masama, which is located about 70 km outside Gaborone, has sprung to life following the awarding of the mining licence at the end of August. The first soil was dug on September 9.
The mine is expected to start selling thermal coal in the first week of February and is expected to produce an initial 1.2-million tons a year of coal, before eventually ramping up to producing 2.4-million tons a year of coal. The mine has reserves of 390-million tons and a life-of-mine in excess of 100 years, BSE-listed coal miner Minergy CEO Andre Bojé said during a site visit to the mine on Tuesday.
Masama mine manager Ken Tawana detailed the work done in the past three months, which involved the first two blasting operations and the development of the boxcut down to 10 m, with a further 10 m to 15 m still to go to reach the first seam, which was 4 m to 4.5 m thick. Once the face had been opened, the mine would expand.
Once this seam is mined, the mine would descend a further 12 m to reach the second seam. The first five-year phase of the mine involves an 8.4 km2 area.
The mine is shallow, with a subcrop of 20 m to 130 m and has few faults and no dolerite.
First coal mining is expected to start on December 14, and 100 000 t a month will be mined. The mine will use a mobile crusher to support operations until its crushing plant is completed.
Minergy has completed its modular dense medium separation cyclone washing plant, which would be moved onto site next week, said operations executive director Martin Bartle.
Botswana and Minergy could play a significant role in meeting the rising demand for coal, with a supply deficit and strong demand evident in the market, said Bojé.
Additionally, the company would build water and wastewater treatment plants for the mine and was building the 300 000 litre reservoir to store raw water. Minergy had also upgraded and was tarring the main access road from the village of Medie, but would also build an 18 km road to the main road without travelling through the surrounding villages.
The company would truck the coal to a rail siding near Gaborone and then move the product by rail to its markets, which were expected to be mainly international and African export markets.
Bartle explained the significant impact the development of the mine had had on the local Medie and Lentsweletau villages. The company had replaced the Medie borehole, which had become saline, with two new boreholes and was exploring for more. The company was bringing 4 MVA electricity to Medie, which does not have electricity, starting with the electrification of the village school and clinic during December or early January.
It employed local people to do site and bush clearing and had trained local people, who constituted the majority of the 190 people on site. Local people also used the rocks from road and site clearing to reinforce the roadside and waterways to prevent erosion.
The mining contract was awarded to joint venture company Jarcon, which comprises South African mining contracting company IPP and Botswana company Giant Plant. The washing plant was built by Pentalin Processing. Explosives company AEL was managing the explosives for the blasting.
Minergy, which aims to list on the Aim during the next year, used drones to survey the site and to verify progress of the project. The company also measured the seismic impact of its blasts in Medie, but has not registered any significant effect at the village during and after the first two blasts.
Additionally, the company dug out and stored 5 m of topsoil, relocated large trees and had bought bonemeal and trained locals on how to replant the trees. Once the mine had advanced sufficiently, the mined area would be filled and the topsoil replaced.