BBE provides large-scale refrigeration station for Northam

27th February 2023

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


Font size: - +

Mine ventilation, refrigeration and cooling systems company BBE Projects is busy with a turnkey design and construction project for a refrigeration plant and fan station at platinum group metals (PGMs) miner Northam Platinum’s Zondereinde No 3 Shaft project. 

The Zondereinde No 3 Shaft project, near Thabazimbi in Limpopo, is part of Northam’s expansion drive that includes the construction of three new shafts on a block of ground on the western limb of the Bushveld Complex. 

The flagship expansion project has already seen the completion of the No 3 Shaft barrel development at a depth of 1 380 m, which will be equipped for personnel and materials handling, while another two shafts, still under construction, will handle ore and ventilation for the mine. The expansion is expected to extend the mine’s lifespan by an additional 30 years. 

BBE director Andrew Branch explains that the company was appointed to design and build the large surface refrigeration plant to chill service water and provide air cooling for the underground works, as well as an upcast fan station on the ventilation hole. 

“Zondereinde No 3 Shaft is currently one of the biggest projects in the South African mining industry . . . We are doing a tailored design for the mine, drawing on all the industry norms and our experience to give them the right solutions,” he says. 

The three-year project will result in BBE installing ten refrigeration machines into the surface refrigeration plant, which will ultimately have up to 70 MW of cooling capacity.  

The company broke ground in October last year, starting with civil works for the major structures of the plant. This first phase of the project will be completed by November 2024, with work on the 12-month construction of the fan station set to start in the middle of this year. The second phase of the project will see additional work on the refrigeration plant, with final commissioning slated for mid-2026. 

“Ventilation and cooling form an integral part of the operational plan for Northam Platinum’s new block of ground. They would not be able to mine it without this new infrastructure,” Branch explains. 

He elaborates that BBE’s appointment to the project was based, in part, on the company’s long association with Northam, with BBE having provided extensive consulting services to the mining house for many years, as well as building several cooling systems. 

“Northam and its engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) contractor felt comfortable trusting us with this project, given our record, experience and specialist skills.  

“Northam already has a large refrigeration plant on its existing No. 1 Shaft and this new plant mimics that design. This is mainly for the purposes of commonality of spares and staff training,” Branch adds. 

He advises that no significant challenges have been encountered during the project to date, adding that the company collaborated with the mine and the EPCM contractor to identify any potential pinch points early on and address them.

For example, the long-lead refrigeration machine equipment, that was sourced from the US, was ordered early to give the original-equipment manufacturer enough time to manufacture it, given global material shortages and a fragile supply chain. 

“This is the largest single-build refrigeration plant project awarded in South African mining for a long time and BBE is delighted to have been given the opportunity to play such an integral role in the No. 3 Shaft project,” Branch says. 

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


The content you are trying to access is only available to subscribers.

If you are already a subscriber, you can Login Here.

If you are not a subscriber, you can subscribe now, by selecting one of the below options.

For more information or assistance, please contact us at

Option 1 (equivalent of R125 a month):

Receive a weekly copy of Creamer Media's Engineering News & Mining Weekly magazine
(print copy for those in South Africa and e-magazine for those outside of South Africa)
Receive daily email newsletters
Access to full search results
Access archive of magazine back copies
Access to Projects in Progress
Access to ONE Research Report of your choice in PDF format

Option 2 (equivalent of R375 a month):

All benefits from Option 1
Access to Creamer Media's Research Channel Africa for ALL Research Reports, in PDF format, on various industrial and mining sectors including Electricity; Water; Energy Transition; Hydrogen; Roads, Rail and Ports; Coal; Gold; Platinum; Battery Metals; etc.

Already a subscriber?

Forgotten your password?