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Jun 20, 2008

Coal mine grows to support new power station

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Diversified resources group Exxaro Resources’ Grootegeluk mine will supply the new 4 800-MW Medupi power station with 15-million tons of coal a year. Exxaro’s main focus is to supply consistent volumes and quality for the highest throughput at the power station.

The Grootegeluk mine is situated in Limpopo province in the bushveld region, close to the town of Lephalale. The mine is the only successful operator in the Waterberg coalfields, which stretch 40 km from north to south and 88 km from east to west, accommodating 45% of South Africa’s remaining coal reserves. The coal resource amounts to about 75-billion tons. Exxaro Medupi project GM Joe Meyer says this coalfield will play a significant role in South Africa’s energy provision in the future.

“Within the Waterberg coalfield, there are two large displacements, namely the Daarby Fault and the Eenzaamheid Fault. The current pit is situated between these displacements and the coal is shallow,” says Meyer.

The Grootegeluk mine has had a successful relationship with the 3 900-MW Matimba power station and hopes to have a similar relationship with Medupi. In order to supply both power stations for the next 45 to 50 years, the present mine will continue to be mined in a westerly direction for another 8 km and will turn back on both flanks.

The new plant at Grootegeluk will be unique, as the tipping bins and crushers will be mobile units and will be used in the pit close to the benches, moving as the mine moves forward. The plant is planned to operate without the need to pump slimes to slimes dams, and to achieve this, dry screening will be introduced.

Run-of-mine stockpiles will be introduced between the mine and the plant, and between the plant and the discard stackers on the discard dumps to ensure more support for continuous production. The latest technologies are also being looked at to ensure that the processes can be the most effective and efficient.

Meyer says that everything on Exxaro’s side is on schedule and no problems are foreseen.

“A very competent team of project managers, senior engineers, project specialists, procurement specialists, project control managers, project schedule experts, quality assurance experts and cost engineers has been employed and are all involved in the preparation to execute a successful project,” says Meyer.

Currently, the Exxaro Medupi project is in the feasibility stage, which is based on 14,6-million tons a year, and scheduled for completion during July 2008. Technical reviews are also being completed. The project execution methodology is currently being prepared to ensure the project is executed within budget and within the time schedule, and scope; standards are maintained to ensure that Medupi is supplied with the correct quantities and qualities.

Consultants will be contracted to ensure a full detail design to be completed by mid-2009 so as to ensure the best possible procurement strategy and processes. By the end of 2009, tenders should be finalised and site preparation completed.

Construction should begin at the end of 2009. Unit one of Medupi should be ready to start up at the end of 2011; the rest of the units will start up in succession, with the sixth unit starting up at the end of 2013, early 2014.

“The successful implementation of this project is of the highest importance for the project team and Exxaro,” says Meyer.

New job opportunities will be created for permanent employees, contractors and even the private sector, in Lephalale. Up to 2 000 jobs will be created during construction at the mine, with 7 000 jobs being created at the Medupi power station site. At least 50% of the jobs will be open to members of the local community and Medupi is expected to provide further growth in the private and public sectors of Lephalale.

Environmental-impact assess- ments that have been done show that there has been no significant impact made on the 16 000-ha environment around the mine and Exxaro would like to maintain this. The Exxaro Land Management team is managing the game ecosystem that includes kudu, giraffe, rhinoceros, wildebeest and various other species. “Exxaro has earned the right to grow,” says Meyer.

Edited by: Laura Tyrer
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