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Free State Business 2022

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OVERVIEW Mining Mining

OVERVIEW Mining Mining activity is picking up in some sectors. The Lejweleputswa District Municipality in the northwest of the province is the site of considerable activity in the mining of industrial minerals, with six companies currently active. Matsopa Minerals, for example, runs a bentonite mine at Koppies between Heilbron and Vredefort. Sandstone and sand-mining operations are underway in Qwaqwa, Fouriesburg, Senekal, Sasolburg and Zastron. Limestone and calcrete occur in the western Free State where salt is also panned. Production is concentrated around the Florisbad salt pan, north-west of Bloemfontein. Historically, the north-west part of the province was famous for gold, with Harmony Gold’s Bambanani mine forming an essential part of Welkom’s economy for many years. Bambanani is in the final stages of its life-of-mine but there are other areas where Harmony Gold is still extracting gold and investigating possible expansion programmes. The company is conducting an exploration programme to confirm the geological model of Target North and further define a potential block of wellmineralised Ventersdorp Contact Reef. Tshepong contributed 19% of the group’s gold production in FY20, even though production was somewhat down (7 293kg vs 7 967kg in FY19). Various challenges, not least of which was the Covid-19 pandemic, caused the reduced volume but this was outweighed by an increase in the recovered grade. Harmony Gold has announced that it will build a 30MW solar plant to help power its operations. AngloGold Ashanti sold most of its assets to Harmony Gold, two of which, Great Noligwa and Kopanang, are in the Free State. The complex includes one uranium plant, four gold plants and one sulphuric acid plant. These assets increased Harmony’s underground resource base in South Africa by nearly 40%. The mines include Tshipong and Phakisa (near Odendaalsrus), Virginia, Target (near Allanridge), Masimong (Riebeeckstad), Joel (near Theunissen) and Bambanani at Welkom. The plant at Joel was closed in 2019 and ore mined there is now processed at Harmony One. Phakisa has mineral reserves of just over five-million ounces of gold and Harmony has invested heavily in the project. Sibanye-Stillwater is also investigating a possible new project next to its existing Beatrix mine. Gold prices rose appreciably during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company’s Beatrix mine, with a life-of-mine SECTOR INSIGHT Harmony Gold is investing in solar power. Credit: Harmony Gold projected to 2025, produced 196 698 ounces of gold in 2019. Beatrix also holds 26.97-million pounds of uranium resources. Mining rights to the Southern Free State project adjacent to Beatrix have been approved and a feasibility study on part of it, the Bloemhoek decline, has been completed. The company reported that the Southern Free State property had surface and underground gold reserves of 2.1-million oz and mineral resources of 8.2-million oz. The mining sector makes FREE STATE BUSINESS 2021/22 30

OVERVIEW Harmony Gold is exploring new possibilities. Credit: Harmony Gold up 11% of provincial GDP. A minerals beneficiation strategy has been developed because this is a key area for potential growth. Gold mines in the Free State also supply a substantial portion of the total silver produced in the country, and large concentrations of uranium occurring in the gold-bearing conglomerates of the goldfields are extracted as a by-product. Petra Diamonds’ Koffiefontein mine is on the western edge of the province, about 80km from Kimberley. The mine is regarded as a low-grade deposit, but the diamonds produced are of high value. White stones of excellent quality are produced, and fancy pink diamonds are sometimes found. The Voorspoed mine of De Beers Consolidated Mines closed in 2018. De Beers, the South African government and the South African diamond-cutting industry have launched a project to encourage diamond beneficiators. Among the first companies involved are Thoko’s Diamonds, African Diamonds, Nungu Diamonds and Kwame Diamonds. Coal is mostly found in the northern part of the Free State. The Sigma-Mookraal mine is run by Sasol Mining and has the capacity to supply Sasol Infrachem in Sasolburg with two-million tons of ONLINE RESOURCES Minerals Council South Africa: National Department of Mineral Resources: South African Mining Development Association: coal per year. Seriti Resources has purchased the New Vaal Colliery from Anglo American. Together with two other mines in Mpumalanga Province, Seriti paid R2.3-billion. New Vaal is in the middle of a triangle of three towns that play an important part in industrial production: Vereeniging, Sasolburg and Vanderbijlpark. The mine employs more than 900 people and supplies about 15-million metric tons of coal to Eskom’s Lethabo power station annually. The Free State Provincial Government announced in February 2020 the creation of a company that will manufacture mining equipment, to be called Newco. Small mining companies have been promised technical support and with health and safety and access to beneficiation opportunities. ■ 31 FREE STATE BUSINESS 2021/22

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