Weslander and a few locals were recently invited to take a tour of Kropz’s Elandsfontein phosphate mine outside Hopefield.
Among the visitors were locals, curious to see the mine for themselves and a few experts who were ready to ask some questions.
Kropz is the majority owner of the Elandsfotein mine which is a phosphate mining project.
The first drilling took place in 2013 and a mining right application was submitted a year later. In 2015, the mining rights were received and over the next two years construction was started on the plant.
After the mine received an integrated water use licence (IWUL) in 2017 Kropz started to mine and process the first ore, but further commissioning was delayed.
Mining is expected to commence before the end of the year.
Why the delay?
According to Kropz’s technical director, Michelle Lawrence, mine commissioning was stopped last August after a “perfect storm” of economics, an unanticipated wait for permits and “limited operational efficiencies”. According to the mine, the lower-than-required volumes of phosphate mined last year was a direct consequence of the late issuing of the IWUL.
The lower than expected volumes of phosphate along with the a 10-year low in the price of the material lead to Kropz’s decision to put plans in place to optimise the plant.
This includes making adjustments to the existing mine infrastructure to make the plant more efficient.
These plans are currently underway and according to Lawrence the re-commissioning of the plant is expected late this year.
Currently the first area of open cast land has been excavated with dewatering of the mining area and the recharging of water into the Elandsfontein aquifer still taking place.
According to Kropz, this means that work in this area can start as soon as recommissioning of the plant starts.
The specific area has an estimated life span of three years.
Water supply in the drought
The Elandsfontein mine water use has been a contentious issue from the start.
The local West Coast Environmental Protection Association (WCEPA) has taken the mine to court to review the allocation of the mine’s licenses.
The mine receives water for its operations from the Saldanha Bay Municipality. The mine’s annual request for 2,4 mega liters/day was revised to 1,6 mega liters/day, with the mine eventually looking to use 1 mega liters/day. In an aid to help relieve some of the strain on the local water supply Kropz has a long-term plan to help upgrade the Vredenburg Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP).
Kropz’s target for long-term operations is 70% local employment.
Currently, only a handful of local residents are still employed by the mine after work at the mine was decommissioned. As part of Kropz’s long-term plans to give back to the local community, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre as well as a skills development centre is planned. Their current offices will serve as a visitor’s centre once mine operations cease.
Come March, Ian Harebottle will step into his new role as group chief executive officer. He is currently employed by gemstone mining company Gemfields. “Ideally, we want to leave the area better than we found it, or at least not have a negative impact,” Harebottle said of the mine.
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