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Projects move miner towards sustainability

An image of Exxaro's Grootgeluk's processing plant

GROOTEGELUK PPROCESSING PLANT The double-stage beneficiation plant will expand Grootegeluk’s capacity by 7%, or 1.7-million tons a year.

Photo by Donna Slater

16th December 2022

     

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Mining company Exxaro’s “Mega Projects” are geared toward ensuring sustainability through initiatives dedicated to incorporating diverse stakeholder perspectives, strengthening its existing human resources and upgrading existing sites to be more modern and efficient.

Exxaro’s Mega Projects investments have several objectives, including growing the current projects of the coal business, and expanding and increasing production volumes more sustainably.

Exxaro’s current projects include the Matla Mine 1 Relocation, the Grootegeluk GG6 Project and the Mafube Life Extension.

In its 2021 integrated report, – published in April this year, Exxaro said it would not be investing further growth capital into the coal business. Instead, it would focus on “harvesting the completed R17-billion investment” as well as completing the Matla life-of-mine projects.

This would allow Exxaro to maximise the value of its coal business through its ‘early value coal strategy’ to prevent stranded assets and ensure continued coal supply to State-owned power utility Eskom’s power stations.

The company added that it is moving towards executing its sustainable growth and impact strategy through acquisitive growth in minerals and renewable-energy solutions and developing just energy transition investment opportunities for the benefit of communities that will be affected.

Matla Mine

Exxaro’s Matla mining complex – located about 20 km west of Kriel in Mpumalanga – comprises three mines that produce 14-million tons a year of thermal coal, with a workforce of over 2 500 permanent employees and contractors.

The mine has a coal reserve base of 224.3-million tons and a resource base of 752-million tons.

Exxaro’s continued supply of coal to the Matla power station, requires four support projects, with each being at a different stage of development.

The first of these is the relocation of Matla Mine 1, which has the primary objective of providing safe access to the remaining coal reserves and improving efficiency after the original Mine 1 entrance closed, owing to safety concerns.

The Matla 1 project was put on hold when the mine was put into care and maintenance in 2016, but resumed toward the end of 2020. It entails the development of a new box cut and tunnels to access the current coal reserves.

It will also require the construction of new surface infrastructure, including pollution control dams, offices, overland conveyors, as well as crushing and screening equipment.

The Short Wall replacement project entails replacing the soon-to-be redundant short wall equipment with its continuous mining equivalent to ensure continued supply to the Matla power station. This is a result of changing geological conditions.

Meanwhile, the North-West Access Matla Mines 2 and 3 project is to provide access to the remaining mineable reserves by improving access through the tunnels between the mineable seams of both Mines 2 and 3.

Implementation of this project allows for access to sufficient reserves to meet the end of Matla power station’s remaining life span, with implementation expected to take about 45 months.

Finally, the North-West Access Mine 3 Vent Shaft is to facilitate access to the newly available reserves in Mine 3. As the previous ventilation system was insufficient for the new increase in activity in these sections, additional ventilation will be included to safeguard worker safety.

Grootegeluk 6 Project

The R5.3-billion expansion of Grootegeluk 6 (GG6) is to ensure increased throughput and enhanced processing efficiencies to ramp up export coal production. The project entailed the expansion of the existing Grootegeluk plant to enable production of semi-soft coking coal.

The double-stage beneficiation plant will allow Exxaro to expand Grootegeluk’s capacity by 7%, or 1.7-million tons a year.

The GG6 plant enables higher, more valuable yields through enhanced operational efficiencies and better beneficiation processes.

“The construction of GG6 expansion project was completed in the last quarter of the year. Close-out of the project is expected in the second half of 2022 with the final cost of completion remaining at R5.3-billion,” said former Exxaro CEO Mxolisi Mgojo in Exxaro’s 2021 integrated report.

Mafube Life Extension

The Mafube mining complex is a 50/50 joint operation between Exxaro and mining company Thungela Resources Limited located 30 km east of Middelburg, Mpumalanga, and 20 km north of Eskom's Arnot power station.

The opencast coal operation produces seaborne traded thermal coal, as well as coal for Arnot power station. The coal is conveyed and processed at the Mafube coal handling and process plant.

The Mafube Life Extension project aims to enhance the plant’s ability to produce and sell coal briquettes locally, using the existing briquetting plant.

According to Exxaro, Mafube Coal has sold only small volumes of briquettes, but remains committed to marketing and selling such products to reduce its stockpile of ultrafine and generate additional revenue for the remainder of the mine’s life. The addition of these products to Mafube’s output should result in a projected increase in value of R137-million.

The project’s scope included the construction of a 7 km overland conveyor to move the run-of-mine from the Nooitgedacht reserve block to the current washing plant at Springboklaagte.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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