Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 02 December 2010 – AngloGold Ashanti Limited “’ the third- largest producer of the precious metal “’ plans to dig the world’s deepest mines in South Africa, where shrinking reserves and stoppages after fatal accidents have pushed output to the lowest in a century.
“AngloGold has brought together a group including General Electric Company to figure out how to reach gold in excess of 5km down, or more than a kilometer lower than any other mine,” CEO Mark Cutifani said. “At the same time it aims to use more machinery to curb fatalities,” he added.
“We’re putting the foundations in place for the future, for the next 30 to 40 years in the South African gold industry,” he said in an interview here, adding that the plans may take 5 to 10 years to complete.
South African producers have failed to benefit fully from record gold prices as they dig further to reach dwindling ore, pay higher labour and energy costs, and are forced to halt output following fatal accidents.
“AngloGold has the potential to mine an extra 100 million ounces of gold by excavating down,” Cutifani said. “Even if we get 50% of that, it means there is another 30 years of those ounces for the company to extract,” he added. AngloGold expects to produce 4.5 million ounces this year.
The company’s Mponeng operation in South Africa is the deepest mine in the world at about 4km.
“As a union, our worry with deep-level mining is the safety of our workers,” National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said by mobile phone. “The deeper you go, the more dangerous. As long as they can do it safely, we are happy. They must let us know how.”
AngloGold will boost mechanisation, previously opposed by some union members because of the threat to jobs, as the company seeks to prevent the risk of increased deaths. “We wouldn’t be going deeper with the expectation that more people are going to die,” Cutifani said. “One of the safety imperatives is to remove people from areas where accidents are most likely to occur.”