Engineering & Mining Journal

JUN 2013

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W E S I Z W E B A KU B U N G Shaft Sinking Begins at Wesizwe Bakubung A Chinese investor quietly drives rare platinum greenfield project By Gavin du Venage pleted pre-sink to depths of 120 m, said Jacob Mothomogolo, projects executive at Wesizwe. "The critical infrastructure such as dams and workshops has already been laid down," he said. "Both shafts are at around 120 m now; the ventilation shaft will eventually be 930 m deep, and the main shaft 1,000 m." Pollution control dam No. 1 was completed mid-2011 and the second portion was done at the end of 2012, the dam capacity of about 70,000 l, which holds about two-thirds of the required full capacity. Eskom supplies 8 MW from an on-site substation. This is sufficient for the shaftsinking process that will run to 2018. However, the mine will then need 60 MW to move to full production, which is a potential hitch in the mine's development plan. Eskom is struggling to meet national capacity and has fallen two years behind in building its latest power station. This raises the The 1,860-mt headgear that will stand 86 m high is almost complete. If the managers at the site of the developing Wesizwe Bakubung platinum mine in the troubled northwest province of South Africa are concerned about talk of more strikes, they don't show it. The gloom that hangs heavily over the platinum industry is noticeably absent at Bakubung, west of Johannesburg and close to the sprawling gambling and entertainment complex, Sun City. This is because while other mines in this platinum belt source of nearly 80% of the world's reserves are looking at shaft closures, Bakubung has its eye on its opening. It's still another five years before the first ore comes out of the ground, by which time many of its competitors may well have closed their doors. It is also a rare greenfield project at a time when the South African platinum industry finds itself in crisis, with shaft closures looming throughout the production belt. Eventually, Bakubung plans to raise 230,000 metric tons per month (mt/m) of ore to the surface from a 1,000-m-deep main shaft. This shaft call is similar to the so-called third generation shafts—a move away from old times where average production rates of 120,000 mt/m were a 76 E&MJ • JUNE 2013 norm, according to Tony Anderson, mine manager for TWP, the company contracted to build the mine. "What you see here will be the biggest head gear I have ever worked on," he said, pointing to the Eiffel Tower-like structure rising from the sunparched earth in front of him. "And I've built 11 mines in my career." Once the superstructure is completed, it will hold a 1,860-mt headgear standing 86 m high. The headgear and a friction rock winder will be used to hoist two 22-mt skips on a 23-hr cycle that will help deliver ore to the surface. Usually, mines in the platinum belt depend on 12-mt skips, said Anderson. The main shaft headgear has been lifted into position using a 1,000-mt Sarens crane, on loan from the Belgian firm. The framework consists of fabricated beams weighing up to 46-mt each. Building Bakubung The mine will be accessed by a twin independent vertical shaft system. The main shaft will be for men and materials, and the secondary shaft will provide ventilation, but also function as an escape route should it be needed. Both have just com- A 1,000-mt Sarens crane, on loan from the Belgian firm, had to be brought in to complete the construction of the massive head gear. www.e-mj.com

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