JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – With two collieries now in production, Keaton Energy MD Paul Miller said that the JSE-listed company would move “aggressively” to also bring on line its Koudelager and Braakfontein projects.
As part of the takeover of Leeuw Mining & Exploration (LME) last year, Keaton acquired Vaalkrantz, an operating colliery augmenting its own Vanggatfontein operation, as well as the Koudelager project, which already has a mining right.
“We need to bring this project, which would become an extension of the Vaalkrantz colliery, into an operational state within three years to supply run-of-mine feed to the plant,” Miller told journalists on a site visit of its Vaalkrantz anthracite colliery, near Vryheid, in KwaZulu-Natal.
He explained the seven-year-old coal washing plant would outlast the remaining eight years mine life of the mine on the Enyati mountain, necessitating the company to look for additional coal resources to feed the plant.
“We are also amenable to looking at acquisition options in the region, in order to expand our footprint in this historic coal mining area of South Africa, and to maximise use of the washing plant,” Miller said.
Meanwhile, the company has turned around production at the underperforming Vaalkrantz colliery since it officially took control of the mine in December. The company said the colliery produced 205 715 t of anthracite during the first six months of its financial year, of which 91 374 t was sold for export, while the remaining 114 341 t of higher-grade anthracite was sold locally.
Through LME, Keaton has access to a dedicated railway coal-loading facility at Vaalkrantz siding, allowing for access to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, where the company holds a 200 000 t/y export participation right in its Quattro export programme.
Since acquiring Vaalkrantz, Keaton injected R65-million of capital to complete development of the colliery’s west adit, acquire urgently needed equipment and pay creditors.
Keaton also appointed a new mine manager and took over the colliery’s marketing, payroll and human resource functions. This had resulted in delivering better product pricing, job security for more than 700 employees and contractors, and improved industrial relations.
The company also acquired prospective exploration projects under the LME deal, with the Braakfontein project, near Newcastle, being the most promising, having the ability to become a 600 000 t/y thermal coal mine, with a projected life-of-mine of more than 20 years.
Miller added that, through a strategy of combining greenfield exploration and project development with sensible acquisition, Keaton has attained – in just five years of existence – its medium-term production target of two-million tons a year.
“Our enlarged portfolio, with assets well-placed along the value curve – together with the prospect of continuing robust markets locally and internationally for our expanded product range – positions us well to attain our next medium-term production target of five-million tons a year,” he said.
The acquisition of 74% of LME last year, resulted in Keaton buying out major shareholder Anglo American Coal at a discount, and acquiring a new significant shareholder, Swiss-based Gunvor International.
Keaton Energy will release its results for the year ended March on May 30.