Modern Mining: Featured News

The inaugural gold pour has taken place at the R1,7 billion Elikhulu tailings retreatment project of Pan African Resources in Evander, Mpumalanga, witnessed by several dignitaries including Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. Once fully commissioned in September, the plant will have a steady-state production level of 55 000 ounces of gold a year.

Elikhulu pours its first gold

The Elikhulu Tailings Retreatment Plant.

Speaking at the inaugural gold pour ceremony, Pan African Resources CEO Cobus Loots said: “The completion of Elikhulu’s construction and the inaugural gold pour, ahead of schedule and in line with the project budget, is a further significant milestone as we deliver into our strategy of repositioning the Group as a low-cost, long-life gold producer.

“Elikhulu is delivering much needed new employment opportunities and is an economic boost for our local communities and for South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province.

“The professional way in which the project was executed, delivering into all milestones in a safe and sustainable manner, again demonstrates our team’s ability to conceptualise, plan and complete very substantial growth projects,” he continued.

“We expect Elikhulu to be a flagship operation within our low-cost, long-life asset base, and we will continue to focus on improving and expanding our portfolio in a sustainable manner to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Loots said the capex of R1,7 billion was way below earlier estimates of R2,5 to R3 billion. He also noted that the project had been completed in a remarkably short time of under a year and said that an Australian delegation who had recently visited Elikhulu had said that a project of this magnitude in Australia would have taken at least three years to build.

He also commended officials of the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Environmental Affairs for their “dedication and professionalism”, pointing out that Pan African had received all the critical permitting for the project within six months.

The project’s commissioning phase is scheduled to be completed in September 2018, with steady-state production of approximately 55 000 oz of gold per annum, at an all-in sustaining production cost of between US$650/oz and US$700/oz.

As previously announced by Pan African, the incorporation into Elikhulu of the Evander Tailings Retreatment Plant (ETRP), which has a tailings throughput of 200 000 tonnes per month, is on track and scheduled for completion in December 2018, after which the enlarged Elikhulu plant is forecast to process 1,2 million tonnes per month of tailings for an annual gold production of approximately 70 000 oz.

Elikhulu’s construction phase employed as many as 1 769 people and the facility will directly employ more than 350 permanent employees and contractors during its operational life of 14 years. More than R162 million was paid as preferential procurement to community contractors for services rendered during the construction phase.

Construction of the Elikhulu project has entailed establishing facilities and infrastructure at Evander Gold Mining (Proprietary) Limited, owned and operated by Pan African Resources, to retreat historic gold plant tailings at a rate of 1 million tonnes per month. The definitive feasibility study on the project was undertaken by DRA Projects SA Proprietary Limited (DRA), which is the engineering, processing and construction contractor to the project.

Three existing tailings storage facilities will be reclaimed, in the following order: Kinross, Leslie and Winkelhaak. The three tailing facilities will, after processing, be consolidated into a single enlarged Kinross facility, thus reducing Evander Mines’ environmental footprint and associated environmental impact.

The mineral reserve estimate is a probable 185,3 Mt, comprised of the Kinross (45,2 Mt), Leslie (70,1 Mt) and Winkelhaak (70 Mt) tailings storage facilities at Evander Mines. The combined mineral reserve contains an estimated 1,7 million ounces, of which an estimated 688 000 ounces will be recovered over the life of the project. This estimate excludes the inferred resource of 244 398 ounces of gold leached and contained in the soil beneath the existing tailing dumps, which could potentially increase the project life.

The mineral reserve estimate assumes a non-selective mining method whereby the whole of the mineral deposit is mined in a predetermined sequence. The mining method allows for complete extraction of the targeted mineral deposit. Hydraulic mining has been selected as the mining method as it is a proven technology, cost effective and technically and operationally well understood.

The low-cost, long-life Elikhulu project is expected to reduce the Group’s average all-in cost of production.

Pan African Resources has a wealth of experience in owning and operating tailings retreatment plants. Its Barberton Tailings Retreatment Project (BTRP) at the Fairview mine at Barberton Mines is the result of successful metallurgical test work carried out on the Bramber tailings dam. Construction of the R326 million gold tailings retreatment plant started in April 2012. It was completed on schedule and within budget and achieved its inaugural gold pour in June 2013. It has the capacity to produce more than 20 000 ounces of gold per annum from a tailings throughput of 1,2 Mt/a.

Pan African Resources’ Evander Tailings Retreatment Plant (ETRP) exploits historically generated gold tailings deposited in the Kinross tailings storage facility and surface sources of gold-bearing material. It produces approximately 20 000 ounces of gold per annum from a tailings throughput of 2,4 Mt/a. The gold is extracted at a carbon-in-leach hybrid plant. As mentioned, the ETRP will be incorporated into Elikhulu in December 2018.

With Elikhulu now completed, Pan Afri­can’s next capital project is likely to be the Royal Sheba project at Barberton Mines. It has mandated DRA to undertake a life-of-mine technical feasibility study on the orebody which is expected to be completed during September this year. The project has the potential to deliver approximately 30 000 oz of gold per annum and could provide more than 300 permanent employment opportunities. Loots said that, subject to a favourable feasibility study, Pan African would like to see Royal Sheba in steady-state production before the end of 2019.

Also in the project pipeline is the Egoli project, an orebody adjacent to Evander’s No 7 shaft infrastructure, which has more than a million ounces of contained gold in the measured and indicated categories. If the project is implemented, it would use the established No 7 shaft and metallurgical facilities, which are approximately 3 km from the shaft infrastructure.

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