DRDGold has embarked on the first phase of what will be one of the largest tailings recovery operations in South Africa.
According to CEO, Niel Pretorius, the tailings retreatment facility will bring additional cash flow into the business while delivering massive environmental and sustainability benefits to the larger West Rand.
This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 10 2018
“On 1 August 2018 we concluded our acquisition of the gold assets associated with Sibanye-Stillwater’s West Rand Tailings Retreatment Project (WRTRP), now known as Far West Gold Recoveries (FWGR),” comments Pretorius.
He notes that the acquisition increases DRDGOLD’s gold reserves by approximately 82%. DRDGOLD has secured a R300 million revolving credit facility from ABSA Bank, which has allowed the company to commence with the first phase of its planned twophase development of its new tailings recovery project.
Phase 1 involves upgrading the Driefontein 2 plant to process tailings from the Driefontein 5 dump at a rate of between 400 000 and 600 000 tpm and depositing the residue on the Driefontein 4 tailings dam.
First production is expected in the first quarter of 2019, adding up to 120 kg or 3 800 oz of gold a month to DRDGOLD’s production profile.
Phase 2 will involve the development of a central, high-volume processing facility and new deposition site, creating capacity to process at least 1 Mtpm using a blend of material from different combinations of sources so as to produce a flat, smooth grade profile over the lifespan of the project.
“In this phase, reclamation will be from the Driefontein 3, Libanon and Kloof 1 dumps and then from the Ventersdorp North and South dumps,” he adds.
Pretorius notes that DRDGOLD wishes to reaffirm its long-term strategy to remain an unhedged gold producer and to keep borrowings to a minimum.
However, the development of the first phase of FWGR will necessitate medium term borrowings that will introduce some liquidity risk to the Group.
“To mitigate this liquidity risk, management traded a zero-cost collar to provide price protection against a possible decrease in the Rand gold price while the borrowings are in place,” he explains.
Environmental and sustainability benefits
Pretorius highlights that the project’s inherent flexibility and the extensive, detailed technical studies undertaken, allow for a phased development and staging of capital, substantially reducing project risk.
The process design has been historically proven at similar, existing operations incorporating modern technology and world-leading environmental standards.
The possible use of existing surface processing infrastructure provides additional flexibility.
“FWGR will leverage organic growth to deliver economic value with concurrent rehabilitation while providing sustainable social and environmental benefits,” which include:
- Removal and remediation of existing tailings deposits currently located on sensitive dolomitic aquifers, reducing future environmental liability and risk
- Establishment of a single 1 350 ha central tailings facility to be constructed away from sensitive dolomitic areas on less permeable substrate
- Removal of tailings facilities, reducing health risks for surrounding communities from possible exposure to dust
- Removal of sulphides through a sulphuric acid plant to reduce acid mine drainage risk
- Re-use of currently impacted mine water in the hydraulic mining process; and
- Treatment of excess water to potable drinking water standards.