Local coal miner Canyon Coal has applied for a new water use licence (WUL), in terms of the National Water Act, to develop its De Wittekrans coal project.
De Wittekrans has an environmental authorisation, a mining right and a WUL. The reserve will be mined using opencast and underground mining methods; however, a new WUL is needed, as the approved WUL does not address the opencast component of the project.
Mining investment company Menar Group projects manager Clifford Hallatt explains: “We have made good progress with the respective subdirectorates within the Department of Water and Sanitation, and have addressed all their comments by proposing proven mitigation measures to limit the potential impacts that might emanate from the mining activities.”
He adds that the company is confident that a new WUL will be issued within the next two months.
The new WUL would, from a feasibility point of view, unlock the project, as opencast mining can usually be undertaken at a much higher rate per ton, compared with underground mining, Hallatt points out.
Owing to this, the opencast component at De Wittekrans is regarded as a “catalyst for the development of the larger project”.
The project programme suggests that construction will start in July. First coal is expected by October, with a subsequent ramp-up until steady-state production is achieved.
He explains that the bulk of the reserve will be mined through underground mining, owing to the depth of the coal below surface. One of the opencast pits, nearest to the processing plant, has been earmarked as the mine’s access point into the underground reserve.
“We intend to begin with the development of underground infrastructure as soon as the production target from the opencast pits has been reached and maintained, and the processing plant has been commissioned, with all the typical teething problems resolved.”
In addition to establishing support infrastructure, such as power supply, ventilation and lamp rooms, the development of the underground workings includes the stabilisation of the high wall in the opencast pit to construct the adit to access the underground coal.
“The establishment of the underground infrastructure will occur in phases. “These phases are linked to the progress of the underground development, in other words, the availability of pit room within which the subsequent sections will operate,” says Hallatt.
The opencast component comprises 15-million tons of run-of-mine (RoM) coal at an average strip ratio of 3.5:1.
The remaining reserve totals 79.9-million tons of RoM coal and will be mined using conventional board-and-pillar mining methods. The total RoM available from De Wittekrans is 94.9-million tons.
As soon as steady-state production has been reached, the mine will produce 300 000 t a month over 22 years, excluding the construction and ramp-up phase of the project.
Product from the mine has been offered to State-owned power utility Eskom through two separate tender processes. Hallatt states the company is hopeful that commercial negotiations with Eskom will be concluded in the near future.
“We project that the initial capital investment will amount to more than R1.6-billion.”
Hallatt also confirms that about 430 people will be directly employed by the mine.