Northam Advancing Booysendal PGM Project

Northam Platinum reported in early October 2009 that the feasibility study for its Booysendal platinum group metals (pgm) project in South Africa is complete and that final board approval for project development is expected in early 2010. The project is located near Lydenburg in Mpumalanga province on the eastern limb of the Bushveld Complex, adjacent to the existing Everest and Mototolo pgm operations.

Mine planning for Booysendal assumes sequential development of two production modules. The first module will be based on mining at a rate of 150,000 mt/m and initial processing through a dense media separation plant to produce 120,000 mt/m of concentrator feed. Metal production will total 130,000 oz/y, combined, of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold. First concentrate production is anticipated in 2013, with full production in 2015. Mine life for the first module is expected to exceed 20 years.

Construction of an access road and water pipeline and start of the boxcut for the on-reef decline will begin in the first half of 2010. A modified room-and-pillar mining method will be employed to extract the UG2 reef ore, which will be transported to surface via a footwall conveyor system.

Northam anticipates that the current smelter capacity at its Zondereinde mine will be adequate to treat concentrate produce by module one. Processing of concentrates from module two would require an upgrade of smelter capacity and extensions to the crystallizing and electro-winning circuits.

Eskom has completed the feasibility study for an 80-MVa substation to be situated at Booysendal and is doing the environmental impact assessment for transmission lines from Steenberg. Northam has submitted an application for the first 20 MVa, and Eskom is in the process of preparing the budget quote. Critical path analysis has identified electricity as a key factor, and significant attention is being paid to this aspect of the project. Current spare generating capacity at Mototolo (which, by agreement, is available to Northam) is adequate for the construction of the necessary mining infrastructure.

As featured in Womp 2009 Vol 09 -