Murray & Roberts Cementation is preparing for implementation of Wesizwe Platinum Limited’s Frischgewaagd-Ledig project in the Pilanesberg.

The company was appointed as the preferred contractor over a year ago with the singular objective of guaranteeing the mining contractor’s availability in return for an effective management services contract.

In undertaking a risk analysis on the project in March 2007 at the time of the release of the project’s prefeasibility study, one of the most significant risks identified was the dearth of contractor capacity in the mining industry. Not only were there an estimated 17 shafts on the drawing boards in the southern African region at the time, but companies were vying for contractor capacity against Gautrain on the mining and civils side and World Cup 2010 on the civils side.

According to Mike Solomon, chief executive officer of Wesizwe, the two parties reached agreement that would effectively derisk the project development programme, a critical element of the project’s viability in the highly competitive platinum arena.

Murray & Roberts Cementation was selected specifically on the basis of their work at Impala 20 Shaft, an almost identical configuration to the shaft intended for Wesizwe’s Frischgewaagd-Ledig project.

Solomon says that Wesizwe had also employed TWP as design engineers for the project and project managers for the capital development EPCM contractor, as well as Norman Green as the owner’s team. This ensured that virtually the identical team that had successfully brought Impala 20 Shaft in on time and on budget would be charged with the similar Frischgewaagd-Ledig project.

Solomon says further that Wesizwe had also taken the unusual step of including the Murray & Roberts Cementation team on the bankable feasibility study team with the objective of ensuring that the design engineers, project managers and shaft sinking contractors would be in alignment on critical issues such as costs and schedules. These measures would serve to reduce the level of project risk substantially.

According to Solomon, a further important aspect of the project is the intention to employ Murray & Roberts Cementation to undertake not only the shaft sinking, but the development of the capital footprint for the project. Thereafter, Murray & Roberts Cementation will be tasked with the first phase of production mining and will assist Wesizwe in building internal production capacity.

Wesizwe, as a black-owned, community-based mining company will rely on Murray & Roberts Cementation to prepare it in the establishment of this internal capacity which will be phased in over a five year period. Solomon emphasised that Murray & Robert Cementation’s excellent training facilities were an important factor in this respect, and the company has undertaken to provide Wesizwe staff with access to these as part of the build-up programme.

Mike Wells, Murray & Roberts Cementation operations director responsible for this project says the project team is moving seamlessly from the feasibility and design phases of the project into an operational readiness phase. Training for this phase will be done at the company’s Mining Qualification Authority (MQA) accredited Bentley Park Training Academy.

Wells says this will be done in a simulated environment at the training facility where four mock-up shafts have been constructed to allow the crew to be taught best practice methodology under the correct operating conditions. “The production environment is usually noisy and often hostile, while the mock-ups allow training to be done at the pace of the individual learner.”

The four shaft sinking mock-ups vary in depth from 6m to 15m. The first is used for breaking, lowering and lining up of the curb ring; the second for shaft construction training; the third for grab lashing and 630 loader lashing training; and the fourth for drill rig training.

Wells says following the completion of the bankable feasibility study under the memorandum of understanding, the feasibility team is continuing into the operational readiness phase and the bankable feasibility study is being used to raise the appropriate funding.

Shaft sinking is set to commence around September/October 2008 with Murray & Roberts Cementation beginning the vertical mine access system.

“Essentially, the mine will comprise a 10.5m diameter main shaft sunk to a depth of 950m and a 8m diameter ventilation shaft,” Wells says. “The shaft will have a single level entry point to the reef because of the flat lying nature of the reef, and all underground service infrastructure will be on this level.”

The mine itself will comprise five levels, namely an upper and lower tramming level, a crusher level, a belt level and a UG 2 level. Wesizwe will produce 230,000tpm with a total run of mine (ROM) production of 2.76 million tons of ore per annum, producing some 350,000oz of 4E (platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold) in concentrate at full production.

“Obviously with the demand for commodities today, it will be necessary to facilitate rapid access to the ore body. This will be achieved by means of mechanised development techniques,” Wells says. Murray & Roberts Cementation has extensive experience in mechanised mining and has the necessary resources and expertise to deliver a world class project to Wesizwe.