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Zondereinde Western extension project, South Africa – update

Image of Zondereinde mine and selter

Photo by Northam Platinum

8th March 2024

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Name of the Project
Zondereinde Western extension project.

Location
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 (PGMs) 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
R4.7-billion.

Planned Start/End Date
Not stated.

Latest Developments
Northam has implemented several capital preservation initiatives.

At Zondereinde, certain workstreams pertaining to the Western extension project have been deferred in instances where it will not have a material impact on the overall project.

In six months ended December 31, 2023, Northam has reported more than 1 600 m of access tunnels advanced within the Western extension section, on plan.

Strike development on some levels is approaching the fifth 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 215 000 t of Merensky reef have been extracted, yielding just over 49 000 oz 4E in concentrate for the period.

Chairlift decline development between levels 3 to 7 is scheduled to be completed towards the end of the 2024 financial year. Equipping is in progress, and is scheduled to be completed towards the end of the 2025 financial year.

Progress on the 3 Shaft complex is on track. The shaft has been designed as a conveyance for personnel and materials, together with services, including ventilation, process water, tailings slurry for backfill placement underground, and electricity. The 3a shaft is a dedicated, upcast ventilation way. Both shafts have depths of 1 382 m and are being developed through raise-boring from surface.

The equipping of 3 Shaft has reached a depth of 450 m. The reaming of 3a ventilation shaft to its final diameter of 4.8 m has reached a depth of 430 m. Both the equipping of 3 Shaft, and the reaming of 3a shaft are scheduled to be completed in line with the chairlift declines.

Earthworks, civil engineering and construction of surface infrastructure to support the shaft complex are under way. However, in the interest of capital preservation, workstreams that can be delayed without a detrimental impact on the project, have been delayed.  This decision is reviewed periodically, in light of new market insight.

Meanwhile, 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 required for shaft commissioning is aligned to shaft commissioning.

The pilot drilling for a third shaft, 3b, designed for rock hoisting, reached 1 320 m during the six months to December 31, 2023, and is on schedule for completion during the second half of the financial year. This is expected to be commissioned in 2028 and will allow optimal ore extraction from the Western extension.

Crew productivity is continuing to benefit from the combination of better mining conditions and focused logistics over the ten mining levels comprising these lines, as well as the logistical decongestion resulting from the ongoing shift in UG2 stoping from the western to the eastern portions of the mine.

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 marion@rasc.co.za.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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