Innovation, sustainability key to coal expansion

15th March 2024 By: Donna Slater - Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

Innovation, sustainability key to coal expansion

The end of 2023 marked the start of production from Kangra's Belgarthen Adit project

Expanding upon successful initial foundations, coal miner Kangra’s recent initiative in Mpumalanga towards the end of 2023, marked by the start of production at the miner’s underground Belgarthen Adit project, symbolises a major milestone in sustainable mining practices, says GM Paul Redelinghuys.

This venture, alongside the development of the Udumo reserve, is a critical component of Kangra's strategic effort to harness the Kusipongo reserve at the Belgarthen Adit, and to expand the miner’s portfolio of mining operations.

Aimed at prolonging the life-of-mine by over two decades, these three developments underscore a “significant commitment to both economic growth and environmental stewardship”, he says.

The planning and development efforts that started in the third quarter of 2022 have been successful, Redelinghuys says, explaining that the use of the traditional board and pillar underground mining method was complemented by the use of continuous miners and shuttle cars.

Belgarthen Adit has since then achieved “remarkable production efficiency”, with Redelinghuys highlighting that in October 2023, the operation exceeded its production target by a substantial margin, producing 76 000 t of run-of-mine coal against a target of 42 000 t.

“Such exceptional performance not only underscores the operational excellence achieved, but also highlights the competence and dedication of the team at Kangra,” he states.

Looking ahead, Kangra plans to further optimise its mining operations through the strategic development of its Belgarthen B project.

This endeavour aims to maintain Kangra's production at profitable levels amid fluctuating market conditions; it also sets the stage for accessing the T4 project, which, Redelinghuys says, signifies a broader expansion of the current mining right.

“This strategic foresight ensures the long-term sustainability and profitability of Kangra's mining operations,” he notes.

Sustainable Commitment

Kangra is positively impacting neighbouring communities through a comprehensive community engagement strategy, which encompasses creating jobs, engaging in local procurement, offering educational programmes such as learnerships and internships, providing bursaries and initiating various development projects.

In December 2023, Kangra inaugurated three pivotal initiatives aimed at improving the living conditions and infrastructure for the Yende community, which is part of the Yende Farmer’s Trust.

“These initiatives, which include the construction of homes for relocated families, refurbishment of community facilities, and provision of essential water infrastructure, not only enhance the quality of life for community members, but also ensure sustained benefits from the mine's operations for at least another two decades,” he says.

Industry Collaboration

Meanwhile, Redelinghuys points out that safety is a “paramount concern” for Kangra, and its commitment thereto is evidenced by collaborations with industry experts to enhance the safety features of its operations. Kangra is planning on partnering with leading industry experts to test the efficiency of the mine’s refuge bays underground.

Redelinghuys explains that by simulating emergency conditions in controlled exercises, Kangra aims to ensure the highest safety standards are met at the miner’s operations.

The implementation of proximity detection systems and plans for underground WiFi communication systems further underscore Kangra's commitment to creating a safe working environment.

“These measures, coupled with the proactive stabilisation of side walls and the installation of gas detection devices, align Kangra's operations with the strictest health and safety standards,” he states.

Additionally, technological advancements play a crucial role in Kangra's operational strategy, and the introduction of telemetry connectivity in continuous miners is a step towards the future, laying the groundwork for a sophisticated communication system equipped with predictive monitoring capabilities.