JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The new R1.7-billion Nokeng fluorspar mine in Gauteng, the development of which got under way last month, is expected to lead in terms of production volume and quality, and to rank “in the bottom cost quartile when it reaches full production in 24 months”, says SepFluor CEO Rob Wagner.
Speaking at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Wagner highlighted the size of Nokeng’s orebody, which has a 12.2-million-tonne reserve, compliant with the South African Code for the Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves.
“This is large when compared with others associated with new fluorspar projects around the world,” noted Wagner.
The openpit fluorspar mine and concentrator, located near Rust de Winter, in Gauteng, is being developed by Nokeng Fluorspar Mine, a wholly owned subsidiary of SepFluor.
The mine's estimated life-of-mine is 19 years and it will produce an average run-of-mine feed rate of 630 000 t/y. The concentrator will produce up to 180 000 t/y of acid-grade fluorspar, and up to 30 000 t/y of metallurgical-grade fluorspar for the global markets.
Nokeng will mine two deposits, Plattekop and Outwash Fan, with a third deposit, Wilton, yet to be explored, possibly extending the LoM.
Wagner added that the grade of Nokeng’s ore – at an average of about 27% calcium fluoride – is considered high, which will ensure sound economics and locked-in markets.
Meanwhile, Nokeng presold 40% of its early production, “at today’s prices”, to several international fluorspar users for the first three years of production. Most of the material will be exported to the US and Europe. The balance will be sold to an open market, explained Wagner.
“We are in a position to participate in any market upturn in the first three years of production and we are open to the market beyond the first three years,” he said.
Moreover, a long-term agreement has been concluded with financial solutions provider Traxys, which has a significant presence in South Africa, for the marketing and distribution of Nokeng’s production.
Wagner highlighted the ease with which Nokeng’s surface and near-surface orebody can be mined, as well as the efficiency of the new concentrator plant, as key factors that will help position the operation in the bottom cost quartile of producers.
Earthworks and civils for the mine and concentrator are expected to start next month, with first production expected by the first quarter of 2019.
The company aims to complete construction of the process plant by October 2018, with final handover of the process plant expected in February 2019.
According to Wagner, Nokeng is the first new mine to be built in Gauteng in 12 years, and is expected to create about 300 fixed-term jobs during production, securing about 200 permanent jobs after production.
In addition, Nokeng’s social and labour plan has committed abut R26-million, including a R10-million education and training centre that will be built in early 2018 to serve the needs of the surrounding community. The centre will be modelled on the United Manganese of Kalahari ‘Joe Morolong’ Training Facility, at Kuruman, in the Northern Cape.
Funding for the mine comprises a mix of equity and debt and involves local and overseas investors and lenders.
Wagner highlighted that, while funding was finalised ahead of the June announcement of South Africa’s new Mining Charter, the company is evaluating the potential impacts of the charter, should there be no change following the challenges in the wake of its contested gazetting.
“However, our priority is to expedite mine development and production, on time and within budget,” he concluded.