Modern Mining

South Africa’s largest coal producer and black empowered mining group, Exxaro, has broken ground on a R3,3-billion, first-of-its-kind digital mine.

The Belfast Implementation Project (BIP) – the last good-quality A-grade, high-yield coal deposit in Mpumalanga – will start producing thermal coal in 2020. Belfast is Exxaro’s first greenfields mine since 2007 when Inyanda mine, near Witbank, was developed.

Exxaro breaks ground on Belfast coal project

Pictured at the ground-breaking ceremony are (from left): Mxolisi Mgojo: CEO, Exxaro Resources; Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi: board member; Refilwe Mtshweni: Premier, Mpumalanga Province; and Cllr TD Ngwenya: Executive Mayor: Emakhazeni Local Municipality (photo: Exxaro).

It will create close on 6 000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and the life of the mine, with almost 20 000 people benefitting. It is expected to contribute R39-billion to local GDP over the life of the mine, with Nkangala District Municipality’s GDP estimated to gain as much as R2,1 billion per annum, including R966 million – a full 1 % increase – of direct impact on the district municipality.

The new mine – which is located about 10 km south-west of Belfast, on the southern side of the N4 highway – is also the first of its kind in South Africa to have a ‘digital twin’.

The ‘digital twin’ is a complete digital replica of the mine which will allow management and the contracted company to connect to and manage it from anywhere. The maintenance teams will be connected to certain machinery to analyse and pick up problems early – resulting in increased safety and reduced downtime.

The sod-turning was attended by Exxaro CEO Mxolisi Mgojo; Exxaro board members Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Likhapha Mbatha, Petrus Snyders and Mark Moffet; Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni; and the Mpumalanga MEC for Human Settlements, Norah Mahlangu.

Construction, which began seven months ago, is expected to last 24 months in total.

Belfast will produce 2,7 Mt/a of A-grade thermal coal for export over a current life of mine of 17 years.

In his address, Mgojo said, “Exxaro acknowledges that it is our responsibility to create a future that our children and grandchildren can be proud of. Exxaro takes that responsibility very seriously. We are very excited at this opportunity. But we must acknowledge that we operate in an environment of vast inequality, poverty and unemployment. Therefore, we are mindful of possibility that comes with the Belfast Implementation Forum. This is not just about creating a new mine. As we create, we need to consider how we start leveraging opportunities to create new economies.”

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