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Fluorspar development company Sephako Fluoride (SepFluor) has announced a R1.7bn investment into a mine north east of Pretoria. Nokeng Fluorspar Mine, which comprises a mine and concentrator, will produce 180 000 tonnes a year of acid grade fluorspar and 30 000 tonnes a year of metallurgical grade fluorspar, according to the company.

Commissioning is set to begin in November 2018, with the mine expected to begin operations at the beginning of 2019. The 21 months of construction will create 300 fixed-term jobs, and 200 permanent jobs will be created with the completion of the mine and concentrator.

New fluorspar mine to be builtA geologist examines an ore sample on site at Nokeng (photo: SepFluor).

According to a statement issued by SepFluor, the company has been planning the mine for at least seven years, but difficulties in raising funding forced it to put the project on hold. Capital has now been made available through a variety of private investors.

The equity investment portion of the project capital is led by Twist and De Bruin through their African Minerals Exploration and Development Fund II (AMED), along with Italian investor Carlo Baravalle, who is a non-executive on the SepFluor board. Through the Lelau Mohuba Trust, Mohuba is an investor in the project, as is Traxys Projects, a division of commodities trading company Traxys Europe. Other investors include Fieldstone Africa and Concentrate Capital partners (CCP), as well as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which has approved an infrastructure grant of R21m under its Critical Infrastructure Programme (CIP), primarily as a contribution towards power supply and road works.

A joint venture comprising DRA Projects SA and Group 5 Construction has been awarded the EPC contract for the mine. This will include the concentrator, access roads and the ‘self-build’ portion of a power supply agreement concluded with Eskom. The company says this will entail the construction of a new 14km, 132kv overhead power line.

“We have always held the firm view that South Africa remains an investment destination of choice. Government has created a conducive environment and the necessary legislative predictability for investment to take place. This investment decision is proof of that,” says Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

According to the US Geological Survey, South Africa has the biggest fluorspar reserves in the world. Acid grade fluorspar is used in the chemicals industry to manufacture hydrochloric acid, metallurgical grade fluorspar is used as a flux to remove impurities from molten iron such as sulphur and phosphorous, and calcium fluoride is used in steel and aluminium production and to make refrigerants.

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