Mining services company Fraser Alexander will start construction of a tailings storage facility (TSF) at the Evander gold mine, in Mpumalanga, next month, with completion of the TSF expected by December 2018.
Last month, the company was awarded the tender for the construction of the TSF for the Elikhulu project, which is expected to retreat gold tailings at a rate of one-million tonnes a month.
Fraser Alexander, which has been servicing the mining industry for 104 years, was awarded the contract by international engineering group DRA on behalf of JSE-listed Evander mine owner Pan African Resources.
Fraser Alexander construction GM Wade Leaf says the tender is the result of months of budget pricing and official tendering, adding that Fraser Alexander is confident that DRA’s decision is owing to the company’s long-standing reputation for building tailings dams, its Level 3 broad-based black economic-empowerment rating. Fraser Alexander also owns the largest in-house fleet of motorised scrapers in Southern Africa, allowing for the construction of the bulk engineered earthworks at an economical rate.
Leaf cites the company’s recent and successful completion of a 480 ha TSF for a Namibian uranium mine as an example of its ability to deliver large-scale and complex projects, despite constrained timelines. The Namibian project comprised 2.4-million cubic metres of earthworks, about 4.2-million square metres of linear low-density polyethylene liner and 5 600 m of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) piping. It was completed in about two years, on time and within budget.
Another aspect that favoured the company’s bid was its technical team’s collaboration with the client team, DRA and the engineering consultant during the tender process, which, ultimately, assisted in a more efficient design for the facility. He notes that the company’s good working relationship with all the companies involved in the Elikhulu project “played a role in the signing of the contract on May 29”.
Leaf also believes Fraser Alexander “ultimately won the day”, owing to its cost- effective bid and highly-skilled and experienced team.
He also feels that the comradery developed with all the companies involved in the project has likely placed Fraser Alexander in good stead with regard to its bid for the long-term operation of the TSF.
The construction of the Elikhulu TSF will comprise the removal of about 4.5-million cubic metres of earth as part of the bulk earthworks, the blasting of about 200 000 m3 of rock and the use of 55 000 m3 of concrete, as well as 250 000 m2 of hyson cells. Fraser Alexander will be constructing 1.5-million square metres of tailings storage, return water dams covering 250 000 m2 and four 30 m concrete towers. The project also calls for 2.2-million square metres of HDPE liner, three penstock lines and 4 400 m of precast pipes.
Fraser Alexander COO Lourens De Koning comments that this project enables Fraser Alexander to showcase various services, which, aside from construction, include mining and remining, mineral processing, materials handling, deposition, water treatment and rehabilitation.
Leaf says the team’s “ability to move vast amounts of earth with our equipment has been proven on many projects”, so, while the challenge at Elikhulu is daunting, Fraser Alexander is confident in its capability to deliver the project.
De Koning explains that Fraser Alexander has recently embraced a realignment strategy. The reasoning behind this is to, firstly, adapt to the relative contraction of the global mining market as a result of the 2015 commodities crash and, secondly, ensure that the company is positioned to capitalise on the expected uptick in commodity prices and the resultant increase in mining projects.
He notes that the company has successfully completed several tailings and minerals processing projects and is actively pursuing new projects, noting that the project pipeline for the remainder of the year, 2018 and beyond is “promising.”
De Koning adds that Fraser Alexander’s appeal is not solely restricted to the African continent, as it is involved, for instance, in establishing hydraulic mining infrastructure for a Brazilian gold mine.
Of late, Fraser Alexander has been involved in a number of tailings retreatmentprojects and suggests that this trend, which he has observed both locally and in the rest of Africa, will continue, as companies try to derive more value from material that has already been mined.