JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – With its R1.7-billion mine and concentrator at Rust de Winter nearing completion, Sepfluor’s wholly-owned Nokeng fluorspar mine on Thursday officially launched the Dr Lelau Mohuba training centre – named after the Sepfluor chairperson.
The R17-million 2 400 m2 centre was built and equipped in seven months.
Tuition, study materials, transport, clothing and personal protective equipment costs totalling R36 000 per trainee will be covered by the company during the mine’s life.
Sepfluor expects 2 500 people from ten surrounding communities will receive training as boilermaking, fitting, welding and electrical aides from the Mining Qualifications Authority-accredited centre over the next ten years.
The centre forms part of the mine’s social and labour plan commitments, noted Sepfluor exploration manager Ntando Nonoise, adding that the centre intends to recruit 60 trainees every three-month cycle. The first group of 54 trainees have been enrolled since the last week of May and should complete their training by the middle of September.
“Before they’ve taken any minerals, they’ve already invested in our people,” noted a community representative and training centre board member.
Mohuba’s daughter Lesedi, meanwhile, delivered a speech on behalf of her father who could not attend, noting that the centre represented Sepfluor's ethos of training and development. Mohuba thanked the communities for their patience and understanding and added that the company looked forward to all stakeholders growing together.
He further thanked investors for “allowing” the mine to start the construction and development of a community training centre despite the fact that the mine is still under development and investors have yet to see a return on investment. He lauded his investors and funding partners for “understanding that dividends are not always going to be financial.”
Sepfluor CEO Rob Wagner noted that, in the months since May, the first batch of students have demonstrated the critical skills and attributes needed to be successful. He added that some of the stand-out students would be absorbed by the mine, but that the centre would ultimately assist graduates in finding employment elsewhere.
In his keynote address, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe applauded the community engagement forum, noting that, “it’s rare to have an engagement forum that is constructive, rather than destructive.”
He reiterated the importance of transformation, adding that Nokeng’s management structure demonstrated that it could be done and that the benefits of such commitments were evident.
Mantashe further emphasised the importance of a skilled workforce as it improves performance across all areas. He cautioned, however, that a skilled workforce needed to be complemented by a modern management.
He suggested that companies modernise their management structures alongside modernising their mines.
He approved of Nokeng’s intention to raise money for beneficiation, and committed to assisting the mine in this regard, because, “beneficiation means we’re not exporting jobs”.
ON TIME, ON BUDGET
As previously reported by Mining Weekly Online, Nokeng started the process of applying for a mining licence in 2004 and attained financial close in 2017.
Development at the openpit fluorspar mine started in July last year.
Construction of the process plant is expected to be completed in the coming months and final handover and first production are expected by February 2019.
Nokeng’s orebody comprises a 12.2-million-tonne reserve that is compliant with the South African Code for the Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Reserves. Around 630 000 t/y of ore, comprising about 27% calcium fluoride, will be mined over the 19-year mine life. The concentrator will produce up to 180 000 t/y of fluorspar.
The official opening is expected to be in October.