Zondereinde Western extension project, South Africa – update

Image of the Zondereinde mine

Photo by Northam Platinum

1st September 2023

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor


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Name of the Project
Zondereinde Western extension project.

Northern portion of the western limb of the Bushveld Complex near Thabazimbi, in Limpopo, South Africa.

Project Owner/s
Northam Platinum Holdings Limited.

Project Description
The Zondereinde mine is an established, conventional, long-life operation that mines upper group two (UG2) and Merensky reef ore, and produces about 300 000 oz/y of refined platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, or 4E, platinum-group metals from its own operations.

In early 2018, Northam acquired a portion of the Amandelbult mining right – the Western extension – from Anglo American Platinum.

The Western extension is a rich resource block containing 21-million ounces of PGMs within the high-grade Merensky and UG2 orebodies of the Bushveld Complex.

The extension provides Zondereinde with immediate access to an additional 3.6 km of mineable strike to the west of its existing underground operations and access to additional Merensky and UG2 resources, extending Zondereinde's life-of-mine to more than 30 years.

The extension will increase Zondereinde’s production to 350 000 oz/y of 4E by 2026.

Northam has developed, and is equipping, a vertical shaft (No 3 shaft) to access the Western extension.

The No 3 shaft will be able to carry 126 people at 12 m/s using a three-deck cage and counterweight configuration. The rock shaft will be able to hoist as much as 115 000 t a month using 14 t skips in a skip-skip configuration. The ventilation shaft will be able to exhaust air at 400 kg/s.

The No 3 personnel and materials shaft, and rock shafts, will reach production levels three and four, connecting with a decline cluster, consequently allowing for material distribution and rock hoisting from the respective production levels.

The No 3 shaft underground decline cluster will comprise a chairlift decline with piped mining services, a rock decline equipped with a double-drum winder comprising two 12 t skips, and a material decline equipped with a single drum winder and gondola.

Mining activity from the existing workings of the Zondereinde mine will gradually transition into the Western extension block. The new shaft will also facilitate the supply of services, including backfill, chilled service water and ventilation, to the underground workings. This will alleviate the distance challenges from the existing Zondereinde shafts. 

Potential Job Creation
The expanded mining footprint is enabling the creation of direct, meaningful, sustainable employment for an additional 600 people.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
Not stated.

Capital Expenditure

Planned Start/End Date
Not stated.

Latest Developments
Construction of the No 3 shaft is under way.

In the financial year ended June 30, 2023, almost 4 700 m of access tunnels were advanced within the Western extension section, which is more than 400 m above plan.

Northam reports that strike development on some levels is beyond the fourth mining line, while raises are being developed on the third mining line. Stoping and ledging is in progress on the first two mining lines and almost 480 000 oz of Merensky reef have been extracted, yielding just over 87 000 oz 4E in concentrate.

Crew productivity is continuing to benefit from better mining conditions and focused logistics over the ten mining levels comprising these lines.

Chairlift decline development is also continuing, and holings between 3 and 5 levels have been completed. Equipping has started while development on other levels is continuing.

Progress on the No 3 shaft complex access project is on schedule. It is designed as a conveyance for personnel and materials, together with services, including ventilation, process water, tailings slurry for backfill placement underground and electricity. Shaft 3a is a dedicated, upcast ventilation way. Both have depths of 1 382 m and are developed through raise-boring from surface.

Accuracy in pilot drilling of the shafts is a critical success factor. Northam uses directional drilling technologies normally applied in the oil industry.

Piloting of the No 3 shaft was successfully completed in July 2020 and lateral deflection of the hole was limited to less than 20 cm. Reaming of the shaft to a final diameter of 4.8 m started in December 2020 and was successfully completed in April 2022. The shaft is being equipped and is scheduled to be operational in 2024.

Pilot drilling of 3a ventilation shaft started during the second half of the previous financial year and was successfully completed in January 2023. Reaming to a final diameter of 4.8 m has started. It is scheduled to be operational in 2024, in line with No 3 shaft. Earthworks, civil engineering and construction surface infrastructure to support the shaft complex is under way.

Further, an Eskom intake yard has been commissioned and energised. The shaft winder-house has been built and equipped, and the steel headgear has been erected and commissioned. Civil construction of the hydropower refrigeration plant is in progress. The schedule for all surface work is aligned to shaft commissioning.

The pilot drilling for a third shaft, 3b, designed for rock hoisting, has also started. This is expected to be commissioned in 2028 and will allow for optimal ore extraction from the Western extension.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
Master Drilling (drilling contractor); and BBE (design and build of refrigeration plant).

Contact Details for Project Information
Northam Platinum, tel +27 11 759 6000.
R&A Strategic Communications, on behalf of Northam Platinum, tel +27 11 880 3924 or email

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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