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Joint venture to develop Kongoni deposit

An image of Kobus Rothmann

KOBUS ROTHMANN The Kongoni project's mining approach will employ the room-and-pillar method, focusing on extracting the lower manganese orebody seam

12th April 2024

By: Lumkile Nkomfe

Creamer Media Reporter

     

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Amid anticipated growth in global manganese demand, driven by steel production and emerging green energy technologies, commodities investment company Menar will undertake a joint venture with diversified metals and mining company ERG Africa to develop the large-scale underground Kongoni manganese orebody in Hotazel, in the Northern Cape.

Kongoni, situated at the heart of South Africa’s Kalahari manganese fields, is well known for its vast deposits of manganese.

The company says extensive drilling and sampling have been conducted over the past two years, and that this project currently remains in a preconstruction phase, as it is awaiting a fortification of the 37% manganese free on board index price before starting with further development.

Menar adds that the manganese being targeted will have a grade of about 36%.

Following the preconstruction phase, the required infrastructure will be erected to facilitate the large-scale development of the mine.

Menar is familiar with the operational terrain in the region, as its East Manganese mine is located nearby, thereby assisting in improving the feasibility of pursuing another project in the area.

Regional logistics are also favourable, owing to State rail company Transnet’s operation of a manganese line between Hotazel and the ports of Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape; and Saldanha Bay, in the Western Cape.

Menar highlights that it is positioning the Kongoni project at the lower end of the mining cost curve to improve its cost-effectiveness and operational efficiency.

“The Kongoni project’s mining approach will employ the room-and-pillar method, focusing on extracting the lower manganese orebody seam. The project’s profitability is closely linked to the trajectory of [the] manganese price in the long term,” says Menar Manganese COO Kobus Rothmann.

He points out the important role manganese plays in facilitating the production of green energy technologies, as a crucial component in steel production, and in the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines.

Rothmann adds that the expansion of the electric vehicle market could also drive demand for manganese.

Referencing the increasing role of technology in mining, the company says the Covid-19 pandemic has forced mining companies to rethink their business models and embrace more intelligent mining methods.

Business Efficiency

Meanwhile, to bolster its operational safety, Menar employs a collision avoidance system – developed by international information technology company Minetec Smart Mining – in all its mining machines, providing operators with audio and visual alerts to alert operators to potential collisions and help prevent accidents.

The company’s business strategy revolves around efficiently managing its existing coal, anthracite and manganese portfolio, to generate capital for its new projects.

In highlighting its diversification efforts, Menar has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Gabon to start discussions on potentially exploring for manganese and iron-ore deposits in that country.

Rothmann asserts that Menar’s initial foray into manganese, through its East Manganese project, has been a success, adding that this project, managed by mining and exploration company Sitatunga Resources, produces 30 000 t of run-of-mine manganese ore on a monthly basis.

The company has gained insights into the dynamics of the manganese markets, as it had to adeptly navigate the pervasive industry challenge of manganese price volatility, and has affirmed its decision to continue as an active participant in the manganese sector. 

“Menar holds the firm conviction that the advancement of the Kongoni project will augment its current manganese portfolio, thereby effectively addressing the escalating demand for manganese ore.

“The Kongoni project has the potential to enhance the level of expertise in our group’s manganese division, owing to its scale and underground nature,” Rothmann concludes.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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