Kumba Kolomela iron ore mine.


South Africa’s largest iron ore producer Kumba Iron Ore has put a strategy in place to extend the life of its ageing Sishen mine, located near the town of Kathu in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province.

The Sishen mine is one of the largest open pit mining operations in the world – 14 km long and 2.4 km wide with a depth of 275 m divided into the South and North mine.

The mine has a proven and probable ore reserves of 500 Mt at a grade of 58% iron and produced 31 Mt of iron ore in 2017 and an impressive 15 551 t of iron ore in the first half of 2018.

Kumba’s journey began in 2014 when the company’s technology focus escalated from small-scale initiatives to a full blown key business strategy. In 2017, Kumba set in motion 12 technology projects at a cost of R749 million at both Sishen and Kolomela.

Having successfully implemented the best possible technologies of today at both the Sishen and Kolomela mines during this period, Kumba reviewed and updated its three-horizon strategy roadmap aimed at introducing technology as a means to reduce costs, boost productivity and extract maximum value from its two mammoth iron ore operations from 2018 into the future.

In addition, Kumba is underway with a bankable feasibility study evaluating the installation of a large-scale UHDMS plant at Sishen to treat 260 Mt of stockpiled waste material.

Kumba has successfully piloted the UHDMS technology that would have the capacity to produce another 1-2 Mtpa of high-grade iron ore, thereby further extending the life of the Sishen mine.

Beyond this, the company is looking to further lower the cut-off grade through the use of a cost-effective technology able to liberate even lower grade material as part of its longer term technology vision.

Judges’ comments:

Marcus Courage: “Impressive innovation that will strong focus on health and safety standards.”

Jim Pooley: “Continued focus and improvement on safety in operating mines is a critical element of any operation. Developing new systems to do this is highly impressive.”

Roger Dixon: “Safety through innovation.”


Vedanta Zinc International’s Gamsberg project in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa is one of the largest Greenfield mining projects in Africa.

Waste pre-stripping was completed by the end of June 2018, and ore production had commenced.

At the time of submitting this entry, a total of 67.2 Mt of waste had been pre-stripped, against an initial target of 68 Mt – and 487 000 t of ore had already been mined, against an initial target of a 500 000 t ore stockpile before plant commissioning.

The team have consistently achieved a mining production rate of 4 – 4.5 Mtpm of overall rock mining which prepared it to advance into the operational phase of the project.

Its ramp up targets and projections to take it to nameplate capacity are a sure thing.

The introduction of a digitalisation project to provide real-time stockpile and blending management solutions to de-risk the ramp up of the concentrator is also impressive.

Community relations is also strong showing that this company is committed to not only production but sustainable business practice.

Judges’ comments:

Jim Pooley: “A significantly large project being implemented on schedule that is also implementing digitalisation for real time management of stockpile is impressive. Good community relations – social licenses to mine are a key issue.”

Marcus Courage: “This project has advanced strongly and is showing good profitability.”