Coal mine lives on

20th September 2019 By: Darren Parker

Coal mine lives on

ALAN MABBETT The extension project has progressed according to plan

Coal mining company Canyon Coal’s Phalanndwa colliery extension project is expected to extend the life-of-mine (LoM) to 2027, and the company is negotiating with the relevant stakeholders to further extend the LoM by six years, Phalanndwa colliery GM Alan Mabbett tells Mining Weekly.

The original mine – located 20 km outside Delmas, in Mpumalanga – was established in 2010, with mining operations starting in 2013. Canyon Coal subsequently invested in the development of the extension project when the original resource was near depletion, adding 90 ha of land to the existing colliery’s footprint to maintain the mine’s output of about 120 000 t a month of run-of-mine thermal coal.

“The extension has much better quality coal than the original pit, especially in the main seam. Sometimes the raw calorific value is as high as 24.5 MJ/kg,” he mentions.

Mabbett adds that further negotiations with rights holders could provide access to another potential coal resource of about two-million tonnes, directly north of the original pit’s highwall.

The original pit is still yielding coal, even though geological information indicates that it should have run out by the end of 2018.

“Whatever we are getting out of that pit now is a bonus,” quips Mabbett.

For this reason, and because of the potential resource beyond the Northern highwall, the original pit has yet to undergo any kind of rehabilitation.

Although mining continues at the original pit, the primary focus of the Phalanndwa operation is the extension project. Mining started at the extension project following the first large-scale blasting of coal ore in July.

The extension project comprises one pit comprising the Two Upper seam, which is about 0.7 m thick; the Two Main seam, which is about 3.5 m to 4 m thick; and the Two Lower seam, which ranges from 1.5 m to 5.2 m in thickness. All coal produced is to be washed according to RB3 specification at a 300 t/h on-site washing plant, operated by mineral processing company Ingwenya Mineral Processing.

The washed coal product is trucked to the Kendal siding, in Mpumalanga, where after it is transported by rail to Richards Bay, in KwaZulu-Natal, for export to countries such as India, Pakistan and South-East Asian countries.

Meanwhile, Phalanndwa colliery continues to employ about 310 people – two-thirds of whom are contractors. The number of employees is likely to increase to 360 once production has peaked to the required levels of about 125 000 t/m by the end of 2019.

Additional project infrastructure includes the excavation of the colliery’s pollution control dam, which has been completed, with the lining installation expected this month. A 5 km pipeline is also planned to feed water from the pollution control dam to the washing plant.

The construction of an access road to the mine is also planned, which will shorten the trucking route to the Kendal siding by about 12 km, saving the operation about R1-million a month, says Mabbett.

The access roads, drainage systems and some other civils work has been outsourced to the local community.

Notwithstanding the current difficulties plaguing the coal market, Canyon Coal executive chairperson Vuslat Bayoglu remains positive.

“Despite the negativity about coal, we will continue to invest in the resource. It’s our comparative advantage as a country. We must mine it, use it to generate energy, create jobs and generate much-needed export earnings,” he says.