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Recovery of battery metals, PGMs being looked at by DRDGOLD

DRDGOLD's tailings retreatment under way at Ergo.

DRDGOLD's tailings retreatment under way at Ergo.

30th November 2023

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The recovery of battery metals and platinum group metals (PGMs) is being looked at by DRDGOLD, the Johannesburg- and New York-listed company, which is being globally acknowledged for its mastery of the recovery of gold from waste.

In a presentation to the Swiss Mining Institute in Zurich, DRDGOLD CEO Niël Pretorius and DRDGOLD group financial manager Mpho Mashatola highlighted the growth strategy of South Africa’s oldest continuously listed and still operational mining company.

What DRDGOLD intends doing next is advancing from gold to multi-commodity reprocessing and rehabilitation of mine tailings. This will involve unlocking further value from green metals and PGMs. To do so in the first instance is the opportuunity to leverage off mining company Sibanye-Stillwater, which has a controlling interest in DRDGOLD and which mines PGMs and is involved with the production of green metals. The growth prospects also include unlocking further value from other South African mining companies and defining global destinations where DRDGOLD should operate from in future.

Pretorius and Mashatola outlined how DRDGOLD had transitioned from underground mining – where it began in 1895 – to mega-volume tailings retreatment.

Gold recovered by DRDGOLD involves moving 25-million to 30-million tonnes of material a year at two distinct business units on the East Rand and West Rand of South Africa’s historic Witwatersrand Gold Basin.

In so doing, the negative environmental legacy of mining is reversed and a permanent solution for land scarred by gold extraction is provided.

In this way, DRDGOLD is a business that fits hand-in-glove with today’s circular economy times by generating wealth and through the knocking out of waste.

Moreover, it is doing so from a shrinking carbon footprint through the introduction of green energy. It has a renewable energy project pipeline involving 60 MW of solar power capacity.

DRDGOLD’s value proposition is that of a highly successful producer of green gold, which is also applying that know-how to be a green metals producer across a far wider front with the use of green energy.

DRDGOLD’s operating method centres on highly mechanised high-pressure hydro-mining of discarded mine waste, which is pumped as a slurry mix to reduction plants through a network of pipelines.

Gold is recovered from the slurry through an extensively automated process and the discard tailings from that process are deposited on a facility of a design that follows contemporary management practice.

Deployed is technology and information to enhance operational performance and minimise environmental impact.

THE GREEN EXTENDS TO COMMUNITIES

In addition to 16 years of uninterrupted dividend declaration for the benefit of shareholders, DRDGOLD also improves the quality of life of host communities through poverty alleviation and youth education.

To date, DRDGOLD has had more than 11 200 direct participants in its broad-based agricultural livelihoods (BBL) programme since 2018, and this number continues to increase.

The participants are from the communities in Ekurhuleni-Tsakane Ext 10, Tsakane Central, Kwa-Thema, Geluksdal, Langaville, Transnet, Daggafontein, Makunqa, Sallies and Reedville.

These communities are transforming previous community dumping areas into productive spaces, thus creating health and economic benefits.

Through its BBL My Food programme, 3 048 households are able to earn a minimum of R10 000 a year from tunnel production. Participants have prepared trenches for their winter crops as the programme continues unabated.

BBL MyFuture changes the way people think about themselves and prospects for their lives. Many BBL participants kickstart diverse entrepreneurial activities in their communities. To date, 215 learning groups have been established, far exceeding DRDGOLD’s commitment of 75. Mathematics, science and accounting programme activities involve eight schools and two teachers, with 662 pupils reached to date.

In financial year 2022, DRDGOLD spent R55.2-million on socio-economic development, which includes expenditure of R6.4-million absorbed by the BBL programme.

On the environmental front, major dust suppression has been achieved and 911 ha of land rehabilitated for redevelopment over ten years. Water management has resulted in a 61% reduction in potable water use over ten years and land rehabilitation for redevelopment.

In the 12 months to the end of June this year, DRDGOLD had closing cash and cash equivalents close to R2.5-billion. On revenue of R5.5-billion, profit for the period was R1.2-billion.

DRDGOLD’s capital investment strategy involves a new mega tailings storage facility on the Far West Rand, continuation of the Brakpan-Withok tailings storage facility (TSF) on the East Rand and the generation of renewables.

It is forecasting gold production of between 165 000 oz and 175 000 oz in financial year 2024 at a cash operating cost of R770 000/kg.

Completion of its solar power project is expected to require capital investment of R2-billion and plans are afoot to mine east of its Ergo plant on the East Rand.

At the Far West Gold Recoveries operation regulatory approvals are being obtained to commence construction of the regional TSF, expansion of the Driefontein 2 plant is planned at a capital cost of R800-million.

DRDGOLD’s market capitalisation as of June 30 was R17.2-billion.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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