Karo Mining launches $4.2bn platinum mine in Zimbabwe

Karo Mining has reportedly launched its $4.2bn platinum mine, located in the Mhondoro-Ngezi platinum belt in Chegutu, Zimbabwe. The project comes at a time when the government under President Emmerson Mnangagwa is working on the revival of the country’s economy after the end of his predecessor’s rule that lasted more than three decades.

The government intends to lure foreign companies to invest in the country’s mining sector. In March this year, the new administration revoked the requirement of mining firms to cease ownership of majority stakes and limited it to only the diamond and platinum sectors. An agreement was reached with Karo at that time for the development of the integrated platinum project.

Karo holds a 50% interest in the project, while the remaining 50% is held by the Zimbabwe Government. The company will develop an integrated platinum mining and refinery operation, with the project expected to generate 15,000 direct jobs and 75,000 indirect jobs across the value chain.

The integrated complex will have platinum mining, precious metals and base metals refining. It has PGM mining rights covering an area of 23,903ha situated on the Great Dyke in the Mashonaland West District of Zimbabwe. The project is expected to commence production in 2020, with output set to reach up to 1.4 million tonnes of platinum per year by 2023.

Karo chair Loucas Pouroulis said: “We are excited about partnering with Zimbabwe and its people in building a long-term and sustainable business. Zimbabwe has an extraordinary metal and mineral endowment and a vibrant, hard-working, skilled and driven population, which despite the challenges of the last 20 or so years, is now facing an exciting future.”

As part of the project, the company will also set by a 300MW solar power plant, which will be connected to the national grid. President Mnangagwa said: “This integrated platinum project is one of the numerous investment commitments we have received from potential international investors who have taken bold decisions to invest in Zimbabwe following my declaration that Zimbabwe is open for business.”

Last month, Tharisa closed the acquisition of a 26.8% stake in Karo Holdings to secure access to the platinum group metals (PGM) resource on the Great Dyke. Tharisa agreed to provide an $8m debt facility to meet the expenses of the initial geological exploration and sampling work to determine a compliant mineral resource.




BHP begins construction on $3.61bn South Flank iron ore project

BHP has commenced construction on its A$4.88bn ($3.61bn) South Flank iron ore project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA) after receiving approval from the state government. The company will develop an 80 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) mine at South Flank to replace production from the Yandi mine, which is expected to reach the end of its mine life by the mid-2020s.

The project, which is designed to expand on the existing Mining Area C hub, is being developed in collaboration with joint venture partners Mitsui and Itochu. BHP is expected to provide jobs to more than 3,000 workers during the development of the mine, with around 2,500 jobs during the peak construction phase, as well as over 600 new operational roles.

The company aims to initially produce ore from the South Flank project in 2021, with ramp-up set to coincide with ramp-down of the Yandi mine. WA Premier Mark McGowan said: “This project is a positive injection into Western Australia in terms of improving business confidence and benefiting the state’s economy.

“BHP’s decision, with its joint venture partners, to go ahead with the South Flank project is testimony that Western Australia is a secure and attractive place to invest.”

The South Flank project is projected to produce ore for more than 25 years. Earlier this month, BHP awarded a $129.85m contract to NRW to carry out bulk earthworks and concrete works at the project.




Malaysia to eliminate illegal gold and iron mining

The Malaysian State Forestry Department has announced that it will increase efforts to crack down on illegal gold and iron mining in the state of Pahang, following operations which led to the arrest of several illegal miners last week.

A total of 140 officers from eight enforcement agencies participated in the three-day operation, which assessed the validity of mining licences of groups and individuals over an area of roughly 31,000ha in the state’s south-eastern Rompin district. By the end of the operation, 11 men aged between 24 and 57 had been arrested.

Director of the department Dr Mohd Hizamri Mohd Yasin said: “We will not compromise with anyone who attempted to gain profit from the state natural resource through illegal means. A portion of the revenue obtained from mining activities must be channelled to the government. “Taking legal action against the culprits is the only way to deter them from repeating the same offence,” he said.

He went on to say that the operation would be extended to other forested areas in Lipps, Jerantut and Raub, all of which have prominent gold mines, and where large-scale illegal mining activities had been observed.

High demand from China has contributed to improvements in Malaysian iron mining, with output increasing from 1.6m tonnes in 2016 to 1.9m tonnes, a growth of 17.8%. However, the country’s gold production has faltered over the same period; in 2015, Pahang accounted for 74% of the country’s total gold output of 4,732kg, at a time where gold was valued at an average price of $1,160.11 per ounce. The closure of operations, such as the Raub Australian Gold Mine, contributed to a 52.5% decline in Malaysian gold production in 2016, as the country produced just 2,249kg.

Hizamri said that illegal mining operations damage both the local environment, due to unregulated deforestation and road construction, and the country’s mining sector, as the Malaysian mineral resources are depleted and tax not paid to the government.

“Encroachment of forest reserve and extraction forest produce without licence are a violation of the National Forestry Act 1984,” he said. “Upon conviction, the perpetrators could face a fine or jail term, or both. Meanwhile, other offences such as carrying out mining activities without a lease are under the purview of the Land and Mines Office.”




South African scientists unveil new mining safety technology

The South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has announced three devices using the latest mining safety technology at the Mandela Mining Precinct in Johannesburg.

The three technologies are the ‘Monster’, a robot platform which can identify and assess risks in underground mines without human workers having to enter potentially dangerous areas; the ‘RockPulse’, an early-warning and monitoring device that constantly observes rock masses for small seismic activity; and the ‘Glass Rock’, a prototype device that enables miners to see through rock faces where reefs are located, and features a pedestrian detection system to avoid underground collisions.

CSIR scientist Navin Singh said: “The CSIR has core skills and competence in all of the strategic research areas of the Mine Health and Safety Council from a safety perspective. The organisation has invested significantly in laboratories and continues to provide human resources for the provision of services to the sector.

“We have offerings in support of Occupational Health and Safety in mining with infrastructure, such as mechanical testing, steel wire rope testing facility, water laboratories and a self-contained self-rescuer testing facility.”

The three devices are part of the government’s Operation Phakisa, an initiative to eliminate all mining fatalities by 2020. Mining contributed 8% to South Africa’s GPD as recently as 2017, so improving the poor safety record of such a vital sector is a priority for the government.

A total of 51 people have died in the country’s mining sector this year, according to the Department of Mineral Resources, with six miners dying during a fire at a Palabora-owned copper mine in Limpopo. The South African mining industry is on track to see more fatalities this year than in 2017, where 88 mining deaths were recorded. This would be the third consecutive year to see increased fatalities, following the 73 deaths in 2016.

Geophysicist Dr Michael Van Schoor noted that falling rocks account for 40% of fatalities in mines, making the ground-penetrating radar technology used in the RockPulse device so important. “Ground-penetrating radar (GPR), which is being researched as one of the South African Mining Extraction, Research, Development and Innovation Advanced Orebody Knowledge technologies, can play a major role in providing valuable information regarding immediate hanging wall integrity,” said Dr Van Schoor.

“This technology contributes to the zero harm objective, by enabling miners to visualise potentially hazardous geological structures. Managing health and safety risk in a mine requires real-time monitoring and quantification of the underground hazards and the exposure of personnel and equipment to such hazards.”




Brookwood-Sago safety grant raised to $250,000

The US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has announced that the Brookwood-Sago safety grant programme, which offers funding for initiatives that identify and fix unsafe working conditions in US mines, will now give up to $250,000 to successful applications.

The programme was first established by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, in response to and to honour the deaths of 25 miners at a Jim Walter Resources mine in Brookwood, Alabama in 2001, and a Sago mine in West Virginia five years later. Grants start from $50,000 and are awarded for projects which focus on powered haulage safety, examinations of working environments at metal and non-metal mines, and emergency preparation and preparedness.

The MSHA said in a statement: “Funding will enable grant recipients to develop training materials, provide mine safety training or educational programmes, recruit mine operators and miners for the training, and conduct and evaluate the training.

“MSHA will give special emphasis to programmes and materials that target workers at smaller mines, including training miners and employers about new MSHA standards, high-risk activities, or hazards identified by MSHA.”

The announcement follows the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) recognising several mining companies in the state for their safety records and reclamation efforts over the last year. The DMME found that in 2017, full-time and temporary staff worked around 7.5 million hours, of which 770,000 was worked at the state’s top eight mines for safety, which recorded zero accidents and the highest number of production hours in each category. Over 470,000 of these hours were worked at the Nestle Purina open-pit operation in King William County.

Eight people have died in US mining operations this year – most recently in June where a Cater Roag coal miner was struck by a steel objet – and initiatives such as the Brookwood-Sago grant and DMME awards will incentivise improvements for miner safety. Companies can apply for the MSHA grant until 23 August, and grants will be awarded on or before 28 September.




Lesotho mining bribe: Arron Banks denies paying £19,000 for licence

British businessperson Arron Banks has denied allegations raised by a Channel 4 investigation that he paid a bribe of £19,000 to a Lesotho member of parliament to secure a mining licence in the southern African country.

Banks, who founded the Leave.EU organisation to campaign for the UK to exit the European Union, is alleged to have illegally purchased a mining licence from John Maseribane, a cabinet minister in Lesotho’s coalition government in 2013 and 2014. Channel 4 claims to have seen emails implicating Banks and Maseribane in corrupt deals.

“The money for both purposes will be ready for collection by Moss [Maseribane, the daughter of the Mosotho politician] next week,” Banks reportedly wrote in an email sent on 13 December 2013. Moss Maseribane is reported to have operated as a go-between for her father and Banks, receiving around 15% of the total sum paid in cash, before the remainder of the funds were transferred to her father.

While Maseribane does not deny that he received payments from Banks, he maintains that the money was financial support for election campaigns. “Arron supported my party. Because I am a politician and I am running Basotho National Party. They supported me for 2012 elections,” said Maseribane. “Financial support, t-shirts, marketing. And also my policy conference, he supported my policy conference.”

An associate of Maseribane informed Banks on 5 June 2014 that a mining licence had been granted for his company Mohokare Mining to prospect in Lesotho for two years, following two years of exploration and sampling work in the south-east of the country. Banks claims that his company had found diamonds worth $2,000 per carat, and later reported in 2017 that it had sold four diamonds collectively valued at over $52m.

However, Channel 4 reports that employees at Mohokare’s Sebapala Mine are paid roughly £100 per month, have not heard of diamonds being recovered from the mine, and have been told that the mine will be closed in August this year. The country’s minister of mines, Keketso Sello, also said that the company’s attempts to compensate the woman who owns the land where the mine is situated with maize instead of money is ‘daylight robbery’.

Banks himself denies any wrongdoing, saying: “We absolutely refute the allegation that payments made to Mr Masirebane were made for granting of any licences. We have made four such applications for licences in Lesotho all of which are outstanding, two years after the original applications, for the very reason we were not prepared to make such payments.”




Caterpillar partners with Newmont on underground vehicle automation

Mining equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has signed an agreement to partner with US-based gold producer Newmont Mining to develop and improve technology used in underground hard rock mining vehicle automation. The companies’ joint efforts will be supported by Cashman Equipment, a Nevada-based Caterpillar dealer.

As part of the collaboration, the parties will initially focus on Caterpillar’s semi-autonomous system for underground loaders, known as command for underground. Newmont uses Caterpillar underground vehicle automation technology in its operations, including command for underground loaders in its Carlin gold mines located in northern Nevada.

Newmont Leeville mine underground operations manager Graden Colby said: “Automating underground loaders enables machine operators to work safely and efficiently from a control room on the surface. In addition to enhancing safety, the semi-autonomous system increases loader utilisation, improves productivity and allows one operator to control two or more machines.”

Through the collaboration, Caterpillar and Newmont intend to make further improvements in terms of underground vehicle automation, including improvement of existing technology and deployment of new features. Newmont Carlin underground operations general manager David Thornton said: “Through our shared vision with Caterpillar and Cashman – along with senior management commitment – we are tackling a new frontier in mining to improve safety, productivity and costs.

“The agreement provides the platform for new or improved capabilities to be jointly and quickly scoped, piloted, proven and adopted into operations.” The collaboration agreement also covers information sharing for assistance in strategic and tactical decision-making with respect to automation.

Additionally, Newmont expects the partnership to pave way for rapid replication across its operations by leveraging Caterpillar’s global business model and dealer network. Newmont operational technology and innovation vice-president Mike Wundenberg noted that the deployment of Command for underground operating model at other mines will create more value.




Zambian miner Konkola launches Safety Stand Down campaign

Zambian copper mining company Konkola has launched the Safety Stand Down campaign to address mine accidents and fatalities following the company’s recent commitment to increasing its overall mineral production.

The company aims to increase production at its operations to at least 400 tonnes per day, in order to generate monthly production of at least 12,500 tonnes. Konkola CEO Deshnee Naidoo remains aware, however, of the potential hazards to worker safety and production if new output targets are pursued too aggressively, and without a coherent safety plan in place.

“Even when we are pushing to achieve that production target of 400+ tonnes, the first thing on my mind, as a priority for Konkola, is safety,” she said in an address to 700 Konkola employees at the project’s launch. “It should also be the first thing in your minds. We cannot have production if it does not come safely. When there is a fatality, it hurts and devastates everyone.

“It is not acceptable to have had multiple fatalities across KCM in the last six years. All fatalities are preventable,” she added.

The project aims to eliminate fatalities and injuries, in addition to preventing equipment and property from being damaged. The initiative has received the backing of the National Union of Miners and Allied Workers (NUMAW), the Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) and the United Mineworkers Union of Zambia, unions representing the 12,000 individuals employed by Konkola.

NUMAW general treasurer Saul Simujika said: “We believe, like everyone else, that life has no substitute, and therefore the safety of a person is our number one priority. Our desire as unions representing workers at Konkola is to see to it that this stance is entrenched as a way of life by all of us.

“It is always saddening to lose life because of the huge implications such as losses to the family, the company and the economy.”

The news follows last month’s disaster at the country’s Black Mountain mine, which killed ten workers and sparked calls from the MUZ for the Zambian government to take action to protect miners.

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