With Zimbabwe’s extensive resources, platinum group metals producer Zimplats intends to expand its mining operations, exhausting the southerly parts of the mine area and focusing on the northern mining blocks, says Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats), Zimplats’ holding company, group executive of technical services Martyn Fox.
“This expansion seeks to replace production from the Ngwarati and Rukodzi mines, which will be depleted within the next few years, by focusing on the more northerly Mupani mine.”
Fox adds that Mupani has been undergoing development for more than four years and has “even greater potential now”.
“It was a $264-million project targeting 2.2-million tonnes of ore a year,” he says.
A recent decision, however, has resulted in an increased budget of $386-million for a project that will produce 3.6-million tonnes a year by the end of 2027. This has been precipitated by north and south extensions to the mining block boundaries, the construction of Zimplats’ fourth concentrator plant and the inherent capital efficiency associated with mining more from an existing mine as opposed to developing an entirely new mine.
“The Mupani mine is a decline-accessed, mechanised bord-and-pillar mine, which is in line with all the other mines that we have at Zimplats,” says Fox.
The project is approaching halfway complete with $161-million of the budget spent and, to date, the surface construction – including the box cut and infrastructure, such as the offices – is fully operational, with in excess of 600 people on site.
He adds that the surface crusher, the stormwater drainage and other aspects, such as the surface workshops, are mostly complete.
“The rest of the project is effectively underground development to create enough mining space to fit the requisite fleet that will enable the mine to reach steady-state production,” says Fox.
This entails developing underground haulages, finishing the workshops, installing conveyors and excavating “very large cavities” for the underground crushers.
Fox concludes that the vastly experienced team managing the project has ensured that the development is not only on schedule but also projected to remain within budget.