Vedanta Zinc International (VZI), part of LSE-listed Vedanta Resources, broke ground on Monday at the US$360 million Gamsberg zinc project in Aggeneys, in the Northern Cape, commencing plans to turn the Southern African region into one of the most important suppliers of zinc globally.

Vedanta CEO Tom Albanese
Vedanta CEO Tom Albanese

As part of its vision for an integrated zinc business in Southern Africa, Vedanta previously announced the approval of a $782 million investment over a three year period, to develop an open pit zinc mine in Gamsberg, South Africa, as well as the conversion of the Skorpion Zinc Refinery in neighbouring Namibia.

The majority of the $630 million investment will go towards developing the open-pit zinc mine, concentrator plant and associated infrastructure at Gamsberg, the company said in a statement. The balance of the investment will be used to convert the refinery at Skorpion Zinc in Rosh Pinah, Namibia; thereby enabling it to refine zinc sulphide concentrates from the Gamsberg Mine into special high grade zinc metal.

Speaking at the ground-breaking, Vedanta CEO Tom Albanese emphasised Vedanta’s commitment to stimulating economic growth in the region through sustainable investments in exploration.

“We are very excited to have reached this stage of the project. We believe this region has the highest concentration of zinc on the African continent and that an integrated zinc/lead complex can be developed here anchored around Gamsberg and the Skorpion Refinery in Rosh Pinah that can boost economic growth and create sustainable employment,” Albanese said.

The first phase of the Gamsberg open pit mine is expected to have a life of mine of approximately 13 years. Development has commenced, with pre-stripping and surface work to access the ore body underway, and ore production is on track to begin in early 2018. The mine will partially replace output from VZI’s Lisheen operation in Ireland, which will close at the end of November of this year.

Over the last few months VZI has focussed on putting together a world class project team to drive delivery at Gamsberg. It has also re-phased the Gamsberg project plan in line with the Group’s focus on disciplined capital allocation. “We’re developing Gamsberg in a phased manner utilising the cash generated by the VZI operations while also focusing on sustainable cost reduction at both Black Mountain Mining and Skorpion,” explains VZI CEO Deshnee Naidoo.

“The Gamsberg project will help us create future opportunities and ensure that our operations create value for the communities in the region.” Ms Naidoo emphasised the role Gamsberg mine will play in the economic ecosystem of the region.

VZI has a clear approach to meeting the sustainable development challenge of balancing the social and economic benefits of development of the Gamsberg project with the need to protect and preserve the unique arid zone biodiversity in the area.

“Vedanta believes strongly in the philosophy of sustainable development and fully understands the need of balancing economic, social and environmental priorities. We have carried out robust public consultations and engagements with local farmers, communities, employees and other stakeholders through every stage of the project.

“The Gamsberg mine is located in an ecologically sensitive biodiversity area and we have designed this mine to avoid adverse impact where possible and where impacts are unavoidable we’ll remedy or offset the impact. We want to protect the unique ecosystem around Gamsberg for future generations,” Naidoo explains.

Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas welcomed the project during the ground-breaking ceremony, commending the impact it would have on the development of the province.

“We welcome this significant investment by Vedanta in the Northern Cape economy, which demonstrates a commitment to contributing to the growth of the local economy.

“Mining is a key driver of economic growth in the province and this investment by Vedanta will contribute positively to the creation of decent and sustainable jobs and the improvement of the lives of our people. The Gamsberg project is an example of the benefits of collective and sustainable growth solutions in achieving our provincial developmental agenda,” said Lucas.

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