South African coal and heavy-minerals mining company Exxaro Resources broke ground on 5 July at its R3.3 billion Belfast coal mine.
Dubbed the Belfast Implementation Project – Exxaro Resources’ Belfast mine has been 20 years in the making and will mine the last good-quality, A-grade, high-yield coal deposit in Mpumalanga.
The new mine – which is located about 10 km south-west of Belfast, on the southern side of the N4 highway – is also the first of its kind in South Africa to have a “digital twin”,
The “digital twin” is a complete digital replica of the mine which will allow management and the contracted company to connect to and manage it from anywhere.
Further, maintenance teams will be connected to certain machinery to analyse and pick up problems early – resulting in increased safety and reduced downtime, which will, in turn, allow Exxaro to continuously drive for improved overall productivity.
Once operational in mid-2020, the mine is expected to produce 2.7 Mtpa of thermal coal for export over its 17 year life of mine.
Construction, which began seven months ago, is expected to last 24 months in total.
Job creation imperative
The Belfast Implementation Project will create close on 6 000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and the life of the mine, with almost 20 000 people benefiting.
It is expected to contribute R39 billion to local GDP over the life of the mine, with Nkangala District Municipality’s GDP estimated to gain as much as R2.1 billion a year, including R966 million – a full 1% increase – of direct impact on the district municipality.
Overall, the Belfast Implementation Project is anticipated to reduce unemployment in the municipal district by 2%, supporting Exxaro’s strategic vision of powering better lives in Africa and beyond.
Speaking at the sod turning, Exxaro Resources CEO Mxolisi Mgojo acknowledged the company’s responsibility to create a sustainable future – “a responsibility that Exxaro takes very seriously”, he said.
“The Belfast Implementation Project is not just about creating a new mine. As we create, we need to consider how we start leveraging opportunities to create new economies,” he noted, adding that Exxaro’s purpose is rooted in its belief of empowering people and powering lives.
Also speaking at the sod turning event, Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni said Exxaro’s investment is in line with the call by the President of the Republic of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, who has challenged local companies to take the lead in investing in our country as part of his drive to raise US$100 billion investment over the next 5 years.
“This investment will induce much needed economic activity in Belfast and in the Emakhazeni municipality whose economy is mostly boosted by its vibrant agricultural sector,” Mtshweni highlighted.
“The biggest challenge facing our country and our economies at national and local level is to get investments that will induce economic activity.
“Exxaro’s belief in revitalising small towns and upskilling its workforce will ensure that this objective is achieved and that our people do not become economic migrants of bigger provinces like Gauteng,” the Premier noted.
The Belfast Implementation Project is Exxaro’s first greenfields mine since 2007 when Inyanda mine, near Witbank, was developed.