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Elandsfontein phosphate project, South Africa – update

Image of Elandsfontein mine

Photo by Kropz

28th October 2022

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Name of the Project
Elandsfontein phosphate project.

Location
Saldanha Bay, in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Project Owner/s
The Elandsfontein project is held by Kropz (70%), African Rainbow Capital, or ARC (25%), and a smaller empowerment partnership (5%). Ubuntu Botho Investments forms part of the ARC structure.

Project Description
The Elandsfontein deposit is the biggest sedimentary phosphate deposit in South Africa.

The phosphate mineralisation is contained in the Varswater formation, with the phosphate occurring in phosphatised shell fragments and phosphorite pellets. The remainder of the deposit consists of silica sand and calcium oxide.

The project has an initial mine life of about 14 years and can deliver one-million tonnes a year of phosphate rock concentrate at steady state.

The processing plant will produce a final saleable concentrate to the expected specification of 68% bone phosphate of lime and about 31% phosphorus oxide using a flotation configuration of direct flotation, followed by a reverse flotation circuit.

Potential Job Creation
Not stated. 

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
Not stated.

Capital Expenditure
Kropz has spent $120-million to bring its Elandsfontein phosphates mining and processing project into production and requires an additional $16-million to cover its augmentation.

Planned Start/End Date
While the project was first scheduled to start producing phosphate in 2018, it reported first production of phosphate rock concentrate only on March 18 this year.

The Elandsfontein project has been plagued by various delays since October 2017, when its water-use licence was contested by an environmental protection group. Other challenges have included changes to its processing plans and Covid-19-related delays.

Latest Developments
Kropz has remodelled its Elandsfontein mine resource after having encountered delays as a result of ore variability and higher-than-anticipated volumes of compact material in Pit 1 of the current mining area in August.

Previous geological modelling identified phosphorite as a compact material present in the otherwise sandy resource, while a 2018 resource model estimated that the relative proportion of phosphorite to semiconsolidated material was less than 8%.

The previous geological modelling had described the hard bank material as lenses; however, excavation in the pit in June and July revealed undulating slabs, rather than discontinuous lenses. The compact material was subsequently redefined as “hard bank”.

In September, following the relogging of historical core samples, independent geologists for Elandsfontein remodelled the resource using an implicit modelling function. They also included the drilling results of closely spaced infill drilling that took place in late 2021 and the most recent results from the current 2022 infill drilling programme.

Although higher volumes of the hard bank were present in previous modelling work, the initial updated model indicates that there is sufficient sandy ore available within Pits 1 and 2 to support mining and processing activities until at least the end of 2023. The updated modelling also indicates that Pits 1 and 2 contain about 12% hard bank.

While the initial slab of hard bank, uncovered in July, was contrary to expectations based on previous work, the revised volume of hard bank does not appear to differ significantly from the previous modelling.

However, Kropz has reported that further drilling work, yet to be completed, is expected to support the longer-term mining plan and that mineralogy can confirm whether the hard bank is a post-formation event, which would assist in further refinement of the model.

In this regard, the company states that the geological interpretation of the occurrence of the hard bank is still a work-in-progress and will be supplemented by additional drilling.

Kropz has indicated that geophysical methods are being investigated as an alternative to drilling to further improve the interpretation of the extent of the hard bank material, while alternative mining methods are also being investigated.

Independent geological consultants have been commissioned to provide an updated mineral resource estimate to confirm the confidence levels in terms of grade, contact elevation, physical properties and continuity. This is expected to be finalised before the end of the year, pending the outcomes of the ongoing 2022 infill drilling programme.

Nonetheless, the Elandsfontein project continues to progress its ramp-up phase and has advanced to a revised shift cycle, resulting in improved plant performance.

Although enhancement at the plant is still ongoing, the company has noted the occurrence of meaningful improvements in the plant running times, leading to improved plant stability over the past eight weeks, which has contributed to increased concentrate production.

In addition, Elandsfontein is building up stock for its first bulk sale, expected later this year, with 18 500 t of phosphate rock concentrate stockpiled at a Saldanha Bay storage facility as at October 24.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
DRA (engineering, procurement and construction management); Minopex (processing plant operation); and VDM Transport.

Contact Details for Project Information
Kropz, tel +27 21 930 0927 or email info@kropz.com.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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