Vedanta Zinc International, a subsidiary of London-listed Vedanta Resources, has begun commissioning activities at its Northern Cape-based Gamsberg project, one of the largest Greenfields mining projects in Africa.
Waste pre-stripping was completed by the end of June 2018, and ore production has commenced.
In total, 67.2 Mt of waste has been pre-stripped, against an initial target of 68 Mt - and 487 000 t of ore has already been mined, against an initial target of a 500 000 t ore stockpile before plant commissioning.
The team is consistently achieving a mining production rate of 4 - 4.5 Mtpm of overall rock mining and this is expected to continue into the operational phase of the project.
Plant and infrastructure construction activity peaked in the first quarter of 2018-19, with almost 3 000 personnel employed at the site. Of those employed on site, 1 050 are from the Northern Cape and 550 from the local Khai-Ma municipality.
The necessary water and power infrastructure (38 km water pipeline with pumping and storage, and 20 km power lines with a main receiving substation) have been successfully commissioned, and are now delivering water and power at the required capacity.
Construction of the 117 ha HDPE-lined Tailings Storage Facility is complete, and it is ready to receive tailings. Cold commissioning of the first section of the plant, comprising the crusher and the conveying systems, is also complete.
Gamsberg has just begun feeding ore to the front end of the plant (run-of-mine crusher, conveyor and coarse ore stock pile sections) to build the required crushed ore stockpile.
The building up of crushed ore stock in readiness for feeding ore to the mills and downstream flotation and dewatering sections of the plant is scheduled for the end of July, which is when the important milestone of first ore feed to the semi-autogenous and ball mills is being scheduled for. Thereafter, first product from the concentrator plant filter is expected by early September.
The concentrator plant operations and maintenance Business Partner is fully mobilised on site and is engaged in commissioning activities.
Vedanta took a number of decisions immediately after the tragedy, beyond those required by the regulator, including suspending construction operations at the plant, and intensive safety retraining of all business partner employees across the entire site. Including the time taken for ramping operations down and then back up again, this has meant that some construction timelines have been affected, by up to two weeks.
Around 90% of Gamsberg’s permanent operational staff, expected to be a total of 700, have already been recruited and on-boarded in readiness for the commencement of full operations.
As per its earlier guidance, Gamsberg is targeting both the production of saleable concentrate and the first truck shipment of that concentrate by the end of Q2 2018-19 (September 2018).
Ramp up to the full 4 Mtpa is expected within 9-12 months from the first ore feed. The operations team is fully onboarded and is working to ensure a smooth operational ramp up.
The Gamsberg Smart Ore Movement digitalisation project announced in November 2017 is on track to go live during August - it will provide real-time stockpile and blending management solutions to de-risk the ramp up of the concentrator.
SLP implementation is progressing in line with Vedanta’s original commitments.