The primary and
secondary mills at
Blue Ridge
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 30 July 2010 – Aquarius Platinum may stop production from its Blue Ridge mine for up to seven months to make major changes to its mining infrastructure.

Aquarius acquired the Blue Ridge mine last year when it took over AIM-listed Ridge Mining in an all-equity deal.

According to the latest Aquarius quarterly production report the Blue Ridge mine produced 10 202 oz of platinum group metals in the June quarter, of which 5 101oz were attributable to Aquarius. That was sharply down on the 15 338oz produced in the March quarter because of the loss of 22 production days through section 54 safety stoppages.

Two workers were killed at the mine in June, after which it was shut down for a two week period during which all employees were retrained.

According to Aquarius CEO Stuart Murray , the Blue Ridge mine also suffered from “extremely high levels of labour turnover at the beginning of the quarter, largely due to the active poaching of skilled personnel by competitors. This had a negative effect on overall production.

Murray said the current low rand PGM basket price at Blue Ridge and the ongoing focus on safe mining operations required a “fundamental redevelopment programme at the mine which is expected to run for a 10 to 12 month period.”

He added that the optimisation programme would focus on mine access, ore and waste mass flows. “It will provide for a third mine access point and reinstate the construction of a second decline, the plans for which were shelved by the prior managers,” he said.

“Given certain short-term geological and mining infrastructure limitations, management has proposed that one of the options to be considered is the termination of production at the mine for up to seven months,” Murray revealed. “It is management’s view that this option will prove the most cash-efficient.”

No estimate on the likely production losses or capital cost of the development work required at Blue Ridge was given in the June quarter production report. Murray told Miningmx this was because three possible scenarios were still under consideration, but he said a cash injection of between US$12 and US$15 million (R90 and 112 million) into Blue Ridge was likely.