Kroondal Platinum Mine

KEY FEATURES:

Location:

Western Limb of the Bushveld Complex, in the North West Province of South Africa

Comprises:

– Underground mining to a depth of 400 metres via three decline sections – the Central, East and No 3 Shafts
– Construction of fourth decline shaft commenced in January 2005; also opencast mining
– Hot commissioning of new 250,000 ton per month concentrator plant to process additional ore from P&SA commenced in March 2005

Management:

– Dedicated AQP(SA) management team (14 people)
– Mining outsourced: Underground – Cementation Mining; Opencast – MCC; Concentrator operations – Minopex

Production:

– Total production of 324,730 PGM ounces for FY2005; production attributable to AQP(SA) of 162,365 PGM ounces
– At steady state, new concentrator is targeted to more than double annual output at Kroondal to 505,000 PGM ounces per annum by 2006

Life of mine:

To 2016

Refining:

Offtake agreement with Impala Refining Services to 2008; balance of concentrate to be processed by Anglo Platinum as part of P&SA

Number of employees:

1,550 contractors


Conceived in 1996, Kroondal Platinum Mine – Aquarius Platinum’s first and flagship operation – commenced production in August 1999. During 2000, Kroondal expanded its operation by installing a regrind mill and extra float cells in the plant. The production rate was increased by 66%, thereby reducing the life-of-mine to 2008.


This short life was addressed in early 2003 when Aquarius Platinum entered into a Pool and Share Agreement (P&SA) with Anglo Platinum, in terms of which AQP(SA) and Anglo Platinum have shared revenues, costs and capital expenditure from 1 November 2003. By incorporating the Anglo Platinum reserves adjacent to Kroondal into the new mine plan, the transaction has resulted in an extension in the life-of-mine to 2016, and a more than doubling of the production rate.

During FY2005, Kroondal posted record production of 324,730 PGM ounces, of which 162,365 PGM ounces were attributable to AQP(SA).

Background

The capital-intensive small-mine concept developed at Kroondal revolutionised the South African PGM industry. Essentially, the concept incorporates the use of key contractors, highly mechanised mining operations and the outsourcing of high-cost, high-risk smelting and refining operations. As a result, productivity levels at Kroondal rank among the highest in the industry.

A revised life-of-mine development plan for the expanded operation post the P&SA has been completed and approved by the joint Aquarius/Anglo Platinum management committee. Expansion of the underground operations at the Central, East and No 3 shafts to access the Anglo Platinum reserves to the north and east of the current Kroondal infrastructure has progressed well, including the construction of a fourth decline shaft having commenced in January 2005. Over 1,000 metres of down-dip development has been completed to date, with the first ounces produced out of the newly  ommissioned 250,000 ounce per annum concentrator plant in March 2005.


The P&SA will see Kroondal’s production profile increasing from a name plate 240,000 PGM ounces per annum to 505,000 PGM ounces per annum by 2006, at an estimated cost of R750 million in 2003 money terms. It is also envisaged that some 1,000 new job opportunities will be created as a result of the expansion.

Location and geology

Kroondal is located approximately 120 kilometres north-west of Johannesburg, on the Western Limb of the world-renowned Bushveld Complex. The UG2 Reef outcrops on the property and dips to the north at approximately 9 degrees. This orebody comprises two mineralised seams – namely the Main and the Leader Seams – which are separated by a one-metre pyroxenite zone commonly known as the parting.

Mining and processing

Primarily an underground operation, Kroondal employs mechanised bord-and-pillar mining methods. As both the Main and Leader seams are mined together with the parting, Kroondal is a wide-reef operation underground – a practice which translates into an increased resource, improved productivity and improved safety because of the competent hanging wall. Further blasting control creates large waste rocks in the parting zone; a large proportion of these are removed underground in an effort to improve the economics of the operation. A Dense Media Separation (DMS) process in the concentrator plant removes further waste from the ore stream, effectively upgrading mill and flotation speed. Kroondal has a concentrate offtake agreement with Impala Refining Services until early 2008. Thereafter, in accordance with the P&SA, all smelting, refining and marketing of output from Kroondal, including that from the new plant, goes to Anglo Platinum.

Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves as at 30 June 2005

The following Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves have been confirmed in accordance with the Joint Ore Reserves Code (JORC), under the auspices of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

About the author

Erika Payne

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