Developer progressing Gauteng project

15th December 2023 By: Nadine Ramdass - Creamer Media Writer

Developer progressing Gauteng project

STRIKING GOLD The Witwatersrand Basin project comprises a declared resource of 4.28-million ounces of gold

Gold explorer, developer and producer West Wits Mining’s Witwatersrand Basin project (WBP) is set to reinvigorate the gold mining sector of west Johannesburg, says West Wits Mining COO Rudi Deysel.

The project involves the development of three mining reefs – the Main, Kimberley and Bird reefs.

The WBP comprises a declared resource of 4.28-million ounces of gold, presenting a substantial revenue opportunity of R48-billion over the 27-year life-of-mine (LoM), Deysel explains.

Qala Shallows is the first-stage flagship project of the WBP on the Kimberley reef. Situated close to Soweto, in Gauteng, Qala Shallows is expected to create about 1 000 job opportunities over the life of the project, which will contribute significantly to local employment.

As the WBP expands, the LoM is expected to increase, leading to an increase in jobs in the surrounding area, he adds.

West Wits updated the definitive feasibility study (DFS) for Qala Shallows in July 2023, outlining a gold production estimate of 924 000 oz during its currently estimated LoM, with a yearly steady-state production of about 70 000 oz.

These figures “underscore the immense potential and longevity of the project”, says Deysel.

Since securing the mining rights in July 2021, the company has reached several key milestones, including the completion of a successful early works programme.

The programme, initiated in September 2021, involved refurbishing existing infrastructure, including a boxcut and decline, and establishing fully functioning mine infrastructure. Delivery of the first ore to the run-of-mine pad occurred in February 2022.

“A significant milestone was achieved with the receipt of West Wits’ water use licence in September 2022, granting full operational licensing,” says Deysel.

The WBP has also secured a toll treatment agreement with diversified precious metals miner Sibanye-Stillwater, obtained a 7.5 MVA power allocation from power utility City Power, and secured access to potable water from water utility Johannesburg Water.

Going forward, the company is focused on securing funding to build the full Qala Shallows infrastructure and execute gold production as outlined in the project’s DFS.

New Age Mining
West Wits intends for its Qala Shallows mining project to find a balance between innovation and sustainability while meeting its production aspirations.

Qala Shallows offers quick accessibility and reduced disturbance to surroundings in an urbanised area while containing a “substantial resource”, making it an attractive investment, adds Deysel.

However, he notes that operating a mining project in an urbanised area poses approval challenges and requires the addressing of stakeholder concerns in the surrounding region.

Emphasising the project’s forward-thinking approach, Deysel explains that the project will use mechanisation within the orebody’s constraints, including the electrohydraulic and hydropower equipment to establish a “green” gold mine.

Future sustainable technologies, such as battery-powered vehicles or employing solar power on site, will also be explored.

Infrastructure development for the project includes wheeled mechanised equipment, including drill rigs, and load, haul and dump machinery.

Ore will be hauled to the surface using underground dump trucks and hydropower equipment will be employed in the stopes, while mechanised equipment will help reduce operating costs.

“Hydropower equipment is proven technology, with high penetration rates and lower power requirements than traditional pneumatic drilling machines,” says Deysel.

In addition, flexibility in face positions aims to ensure consistent achievement of production targets, with early consideration for longhole open stoping to enhance production efficiency and safety.

Deysel underscores the WBP team’s commitment to sustainability, citing a comprehensive set of risk assessments, codes of practices and standard operating procedures that go beyond mine health and safety regulations.

Further, through its environmental management programme, West Wits aims to promote a culture of responsible mining.

He adds that risk factors for the Qala Shallows project have been thoroughly assessed during the DFS, following which mitigation measures, controls or action plans have been put in place for identified risks.

For instance, to mitigate against the risk of underground flooding, a water pillar allowance ensures that mining is performed into “dry” ground.

The company is aware of illegal mining in legacy mines and shafts in the area and is addressing the situation by keeping its exposure footprint as small as possible, and limiting possible access by understanding the underwater level and identifying potential accesses.

The Qala Shallows project will use an existing decline shaft, allowing for early access for immediate ore extraction with no requirement for a plant.

Strongly rate-based mining contracts, equipment maintenance by original-equipment manufacturers and strategic cost structure contingencies are in place to maintain Qala Shallows’ all-inclusive sustaining costs at $871/oz, during steady-state production levels.

“With gold prices around $2 000/oz, these measures provide flexibility to deal with challenges and changes in market conditions,” Deysel concludes.