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WINNER: NORTHAM PLATINUM – BOOYSENDAL MERENSKY AND EXPANSION

The Merensky Operation at Booysendal Platinum is the second main producer of the PGM Group of metals and is situated a north west of the main UG2 shaft.

This operation takes on a totally different integrated mining approach with the slogan of “Safe Production” linked with “I am Important” that enhances individual participation and innovation on a daily bases in the true sense of the meaning.

Establishment of the infrastructure started with taking away the overburden as from 5 January 2015 with the two Declines broken away on the highwall on reef of the outcrop position.

This article first appeared in Mining Elites in Africa 2019

The Merensky operation is the flagship in terms of safety and production due to the below focus areas:

Safety

There are certain days that the management directly intervenes with the teams for Visible Felt Engagement.

There are five critical reports that must be discussed or highlight with the oncoming shift, all significant hazards and associated risks to be dealt with when entering for examination (geology, ventilation, escape route, rock mechanics, blasting schedule and safety officer report) and emphasis are on rock engineering board that points out hazards with associated actions to address the risks.

Materials handling /roadways

The focus and energy that Merensky team put on preparing and maintaining world-class roadways and then also keeping their Services to standard.

Tyre life increases with a much more efficient ore tramming with tipping points as close to the face as possible reducing the turnaround time of tramming.

Geological challenges

Due to the complex strata with low angle jointing and separation Booysendal re-designed an exciting automated roof-bolter to remove the operator from the area of support protecting the operator by and support canopy – all controls are managed from inside a safe environment.

Booysendal expansion

After a continuous relationship spanning over nine years, Northam appointed DRA Global as the main EPCM contractor on the Booysendal mine project.

DRA was responsible for conducting relevant feasibility studies followed by the initiation of the various project.

In the last quarter of 2015 construction of the Booysendal South Central Project started and part of this scope was the early phases of the geographically challenging main access road and the mammoth box cut.

In June 2016 board approval was given for the implementation phase of the project. The scope includes two Upper Group 2 Reef (UG2) mining modules, a Merensky module and a RopeCon which is the first of its kind in South Africa.

The Central Mining Complex consists of a 650 m long high wall (140 m wide box cut and a 350 m wide terrace) and a maximum height of 32 m. The combined high wall area of 16 000 m2 was stabilised. The terrace area is 650 m long and a maximum width of 220 m.

To limit its impact on the environment, the Booysendal mine will make use of three vertical fan stations to provide suitable ventilation over the life of mine. These fans required a smaller footprint and have less effect on the environment.

The power required will be supplied from the current North mine, construction of a 132 kV power line from North mine to South mine has commenced.

This will include a newly build substation at South mine able to provide power to South mine and any future expansions at South mine.

Judges’ comments:

Jim Pooley: “A significant project that embraces the latest control philosophy, focus on environment and use of solar power. This highlights the thought that has been put into the concept of the modern mine.”

Marcus Courage: “This mine has mitigated environmental impact and in addition, makes use of solar energy.”

FINALIST: IVANPLATS

The Platreef project, which contains the Flatreef deposit, is a Tier One discovery by Ivanhoe Mines’ geologists on the Northern Limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Complex, the world’s premier platinum producing region.

Ivanplats plans to develop the Platreef mine in three phases namely an initial annual rate of 4 Mtpa to establish an operating platform to support future expansions, followed by a doubling of production to 8 Mtpa, and then a third expansion phase to a steady-state 12 Mtpa.

At a projected production rate of 12 Mtpa, Platreef will be amongst the largest platinum-group metals mines in the world.

Aveng Shafts & Underground, a division of Moolmans, was awarded the shaft sinking contract for Platreef Shaft 1 in 2013.

Despite a few challenges at the start of the project, Moolmans has risen to the challenge incorporating a change in methodology which removed employees from the shaft bottom during lashing operations.

The team achieved a record monthly shaft-sinking rate of 54 m during March 2018. The project remains on time and budget and is delivering an excellent safety performance.

The shaft has now intersected reef at 782 m below surface – a massive milestone. The development and construction of 750 Level Station was the final needed before sinking to the planned final depth of 980 m.

Judges’ comments:

Jim Pooley: “A very significant project which could put Rustenburg out of business when it is commissioned! In addition, it has a good focus on safety while still achieving good advance rates in the shaft. It is on time and in budget which is good considering that they’re about 75% of the way to the ultimate shaft depth.”

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