Mining Mirror May 2017 - Page 20

Excursion Atha undertook a community engagement programme in the Wakkerstroom area. Operational issues Although the two coal seams — Alfred and Dundas — that Atha is targeting are only about 1.60m high, Tripathi says the coal qualities are ‘fantastic’. The raw coal qualities are 23 megajoules (MJ) on average with sulphur below one; however, the volatile values are not as great. Although Tripathi emphasises that the coal will be saleable, he says that “We are accessing the seam through one adit. Branching from the adit will be two declines, one targeting the Alfred seam and the other accessing the Dundas seam. Each decline will have four sections, so in total there will be eight sections.” The mining methodology at Yzermyn will be a combination of drill and blast and using continuous miners. There will be four sections on drill and blast and four sections being mined with four continuous miners. The coal will be sent to surface via a conveyor belt. “We had to do away with the washing facility on site because of the environmental concerns,” says Tripathi. [18] MINING MIRROR MAY 2017 He explains that the biggest concern for the DEA was the discard dump, as it had to be constructed within the protected area, which was a major problem. Fortunately, the coal markets changed drastically over the past five or six years, and that helped to find a solution. There was sufficient demand for a product that didn’t need to be washed, and Atha could do away with the wash plant and discard dump. “We decided to crush and screen the coal and sell it raw. Because it is an underground mine, we will be able to have good quality control with the continuous miners so we can limit the contamination of our coal,” says Tripathi. The 23MJ unwashed raw product will be trucked to the siding in Piet Retief about 58km from the mine. After that, Transnet will haul it on rail to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, where Atha has secured an allocation. A thorny issue The issue of mining in or next to protected areas is not a new one. Mining Mirror probed this thorny issue in the past when we reported on several companies applying for mining licenses in areas bordering national parks, heritage sites, or other protected areas. The two projects that spring to mind first is Ibutho Coal’s Fuleni Project bordering Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal. Fuleni died a slow death — or did the mainstream media just loose interest in reporting on the operation? Coal of Africa’s Vele Project next to the Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo was another controversial undertaking. The company had to negotiate its way through a minefield of opposition, legislation, and environmental liabilities, but eventually Vele produced its first coal in April 2012. Since then it has been an on–off affair. The mine, which has been plagued by operational issues and hampered by changing legislation and unpredictable weather conditions, has not had a smooth run. After lying idle for a few years now, Vele was recently resuscitated when the DMR granted it an environmental