Palabora Mining Company Limited is a member of the Rio Tinto Group of Companies, situated in the Ba-Phalaborwa area of Limpopo in South Africa, operating a large block cave copper mine and smelter complex .
Palabora Mining Company is set to extend the life of the mine by studying a Lift 11 underground expansion option and constructing decline ramps from lift 1 to Lift 11 to meet the future construction schedule: and growing magnetite exports through ensuring that the on-site production and logistics infrastructure is sized appropriately to support greater export volumes of highgrademagnetite: and review future options for downstream copper processing at Palabora.
The twin heading decline development has progressed well and is earmarked for completion in the Q2 2014, meanwhile the associated airway development and infrastructure work is also progressing on schedule. The organisation associated with decline and infrastructure construction now exceeds 250 project personnel.
Keeping people safe each and every day is a key priority and the company is pleased to be able to report that the safety performance is improving constantly. The final quarter of 2012 was characterised by zero injuries and the overall annual performance was better than the benchmark against similar projects.
The company has been successfully pursuing magnetite expansion in recent years to benefit from market prices and export demand. In December 2011 the Palabora board approved R128 million (US$12.8million) in capital spend to install a belt filter plant. The new plant will increase the production and drying capacity of magnetite in anticipation of continued trucking activities and the easing of rail constraints.
Historically, the magnetite was taken from the existing processing plant, dried on the magnetite stockpile in ponds through a process of evaporation. This gradual method, which is inherently slow and subject to the forces of nature, has limited the quantity of high-grade magnetite that can be produced and exported. The new plant will enable Palabora Mining Company to force-dry 6 Mt per annum to meet export needs and the belt-filter plant was commissioned in the first quarter of 2013.
In addition, the board approved R170 million (US17million) to upgrade the Magnetite Separation Plant. The plant will process and upgrade the magnetite from a 58 percent iron oxide grade to 65 percent magnetite grade. These projects combined form part of Palabora’s strategic growth plan to meet our 6 Mt annual target.
The support for iron beneficiation projects in Palabora continues while working closely with the IDC and IMBS Iron technology company to see it becoming a reality. The third party IMBS plant on Palabora Mining Company property is currently on the construction phase and will initially take 80 kt of magnetite per annum eventually ramping up to 800kt. This project is set to significantly advance the beneficiation agenda and ultimately benefit the communities of Ba-Phalaborwa.
The Smelter requires a targeted engineering solution to maintain its full compliance with the new South African Air Quality Regulations (introduced in 2010), before the end of 2015. The company has undertaken a comprehensive study in an attempt to understand future options for copper processing at Palabora.
Palabora Mining Company will continue to plan, assess and implement growth projects in the year ahead, despite the challenges. The road ahead will undoubtedly present challenges, expected and unexpected, but the strength of our collective abilities, and our experience and determination will ensure that we continue on the same successful path as 2012.