Bakubung ‘absolutely viable’ despite challenging market – COO

30th January 2013

By: Idéle Esterhuizen


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JOHANNESBURG ( – JSE-listed Wesiswe Platinum’s new COO Paul Smith said he had confidence in the viability of the company’s flagship Bakubung platinum project, in the North West province, despite the volatile nature of South Africa’s platinum sector.

South African platinum producers were currently faced with numerous challenges, including labour unrest, rising operating costs and relatively low selling prices.

However, Smith anticipated platinum prices to recover from the current $1 752.69/oz to about $2 000/oz in the medium term, boosted by a global undersupply that was to occur as demand, especially from China, grew.

“We are focused on medium-term, not short-term, issues,” he said at a site visit to the Bakubung mine on Wednesday.

Adding to the project’s viability, he noted, was that it was being constructed on a virgin ore body that contained competitive ore grades, compared with other mines in the area.

Last week, the China Development Bank approved a $650-million loan for the development of Bakubung, which CEO Jianke Gao said “sends a positive signal to the industry as a whole during what is currently a challenging period of time.”

Project director Jacob Mothomogolo told Mining Weekly Online that construction of the project, which was valued at $7.92-billion in 2012, was on schedule and within budget.

The 30-m-high ventilation shaft, which was put up three weeks ago, was currently at 170 m below ground with permanent sinking to start in March.

The first blast at the main shaft was carried out in September 2012. The main shaft was currently 71 m deep and would eventually reach 1 km and reach a capacity of 230 000 t of ore and 40 000 t of waste a month. Mothomologo indicated that the shaft’s headgear assembly was 70% complete and would be erected in May or June.   

The winder houses at both shafts were completed at the end of 2012, with commissioning of both shafts scheduled for the third quarter of 2018.

Mothomologo further stated that the 8 MW Phase 1 power supply for the project had been completed at the end of January, with Phase 2 to start soon. The second phase would supply Bakubung’s 66 MW power requirement when it reaches full production.

The mine would permanently employ 2 300 workers when in full production, of which 120 would work at the process plant and 1 800 underground.

Looking ahead, Smith said Wesizwe’s focus would be to safely sink Bakubung’s shafts within budget and on schedule, while also turning its attention to other speciality metals.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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