JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Harmony Gold is currently adjudicating a tender for the drilling of the Target North greenfield exploration project in the Free State and is engaged in near mine brownfield exploration at Kalgold in the North West.
Harmony Gold CEO Peter Steenkamp on Tuesday described the Target North prospect as being “quite exciting”, and Harmony COO business development, company strategy and projects Phillip Tobias said that a “vigorous and aggressive exploration drive” is under way at Kalgold, where the company already has an opencast gold mine. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
Following the company’s presentation of half-year results, Steenkamp said of Target North: “We believe there’s quite a high-grade VCR (Ventersburg Contact Reef) above the massives. If we’re proven correct, it will make it quite a viable project going forward,” he added.
And Tobias said of the exploration programme at Kalgold: “We’re currently drilling, we’ll assess the results, undertake the studies and, at the right time, we’ll come back to the market.”
Harmony also has a list of other organic growth opportunities. At prefeasibility stage, for example, is the Mispah Tailings Reclamation project, a tailings retreatment possibility acquired from AngloGold Ashanti as part of the Moab Khotsong transaction; and at feasibility stage is the Central Plant Reclamation project, also a surface tailings retreatment prospect.
Underground projects being studied include the promising Zaaiplaats high-grade mine extension project, now at the prefeasibility stage, and the Great Noligwa high-grade shaft-pillar extraction project, which is at feasibility stage.
At permitting stage is the large and very promising Wafi-Golpu copper/gold project in Papua New Guinea, which will deploy a mechanised block cave mining method.
Should Golpu come on stream in 2023, it will have a very profitable 30-year life ahead of it, whereas Harmony’s South African production faces a possible 400 000 oz production decline in the next five years.
Although the company has long-life South African assets in the form of Joel and Tshepong in the Free State and Doornkop in Gauteng, and although Moab Khotsong also brings with it the potential brownfield Zaaiplaats mine-life-extension option, something more sustainable will be needed to keep the company away from the local ‘cliff’ it is facing.
A local mine-building opportunity is at Target North, where exploration drilling ceased in 2007 but is now being resuscitated with the company obtaining the prospecting right as part of the Target mining right.
As Anglovaal Mining, the previous Target owner, discovered several years ago, Target area mine design is required to differ markedly from traditional South African narrow-reef gold mines.
Anglovaal found thick zones in the Bothaville Gap area that could be mined using mechanised methods. If Target North does eventuate as a mine, it will typically require a top cut to destress the locality’s twin massives of what would be a deep-level mine.
Other opportunities to avoid the ‘cliff’ would include Harmony just continuing to press on with what it has not been given much credit for doing – extending the lives of the mines that it acquires by developing declines, with a typical life-extension example being Tshepong-Phakisa, where ongoing decline development has opened up additional ore reserves.
Also, Harmony's extensive experience in shaft pillar extraction is likely to help it to mine Moab Khotsong’s high-grade Great Noligwa pillar. Combined with three isolated reserve blocks, a ten-year-plus life-of-mine could unfold at the acquired operation.
The high-grade Bambanani shaft pillar in the Welkom area is currently being mined very successfully, which could add to the experience needed to extract at the larger Great Noligwa pillar.
Moab Khotsong also takes in all of AngloGold Ashanti’s former involvement in uranium mining.