JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Multicommodity-focused projects embracing iron-ore, vanadium, titanium and phosphate are rolling out on the rich northern limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Complex, a huge mineral repository best known for its world-leading platinum and chrome endowment.
Currently some of the Bushveld’s least-mined metals and minerals are beginning to come to the fore as experienced South African geologists prove up the area as a new iron-ore province with strong titanium and vanadium by-products.
The Council for Geoscience estimates that the Bushveld hosts between 25-billion tons and 27-billion tons of iron-ore and the metallurgical impediments that have stood in the way of easy exploitation have been steadily removed.
In addition, the Bushveld granites contain tin, as well as fluoride, uranium, base metals and rare earths.
“All of a sudden, if you look at the area, it’s probably the richest piece of real estate on the planet,” Bushveld Minerals technical director, Professor Richard Viljoen, formerly of the University of the Witwatersrand, tells Mining Weekly Online in a video interview (see attached).
The London Aim-listed Bushveld Minerals itself has what its CEO Fortune Mojapelo describes as “very systematic” multicommodity project implementation, which takes full advantage of all of the credits of every available commodity.
There is thus another Merensky reef story unfolding outside of the traditional platinum and chromium paradigm.
“Getting this right has huge implications for the Bushveld Complex, which to date has not really been exploited from an iron-ore, vanadium and titanium perspective,” Mojapelo points out.
Bushveld Minerals’ first drill hole intersected a very thick titanium-magnetite layer, from which the company has developed a 718-million-ton multi-commodity resource.
The company now has four key platforms made up of iron-ore, vanadium, tin, and with the acquisition late last year of ASX-listed Lemur Resources, a large coal deposit in Madagascar, as well as a relatively high junior-miner cash balance of $16-million.
Bushveld Minerals’ parallel iron-ore and vanadium deposits are 1.5 km apart, which positions them well for the sharing of infrastructure, including initial processing infrastructure.
Critical to the company’s iron-ore success is being able to extract the vanadium, titanium and even the phosphate credits through the vertical integration of mining and processing and the implementation of value-adding production, which fits hand-and-glove the South African government’s beneficiation policy.
The project is not only close to rail infrastructure, but also to large beneficiation-supporting coal deposits.
The iron-ore project, which has an opencastable resource along a strike of 6 km, has the potential to be fast-tracked.
OLD ZAAIPLAATS TIN
In the vicinity of the old Zaaiplaats tin operation – which is 10 km west of the Bushveld Minerals’ iron-ore, titanium and vanadium project – a thick, low-grade opencastable tin deposit is being delineated.
Director and former Wits Professor, Morris Viljoen, and his technical team, are studying the tin mineralisation of the upper part of the granites that overlie the iron-ore layer.
The Zaaiplaats and Groenfontein areas have been drilled out and the company is looking forward to relatively easy outcrop mining.
Currently, the company has a proven resource of 18 500 t, which it wants to increase and take to production.
“It’s not a very capital expenditure-heavy operation and it’s not infrastructure constrained,” says Mojapelo, who would like to see it generating cash in the near term.
No tin is produced in South Africa and the company is keen to restart it and create a potentially listable tin platform.
Lemur Resources, which Bushveld Minerals acquired late last year, is drilling out a 136-million-ton thermal coal resource in southern Madagascar, where it is working with the government to set up a power project.
With many up-and-coming Madagascan mineral projects also concentrated in the south, Lemur CEO Anthony Viljoen sees strong offtake for its coal and also hopes to realise an export component, which would take advantage of Madagascar being a few days shorter sailing distance to the Indian market than Richards Bay Coal Terminal.
In addition, Lemur is looking in Southern Africa for either early-stage greenfield coal acquisitions or large-project acquisitions as part of a consortium.
Meanwhile, Bushveld Minerals is continuing to immerse itself in the discovery of early-stage projects under the guiding philosophy of only developing prospects that are low on the cost curve, have scale potential and which can become platforms for strategic partnerships with operational companies.