Ivanhoe Mines has started permanent sinking work on the first shaft at Platreef platinum-group metals, nickel, copper and gold mine in South Africa.

The shaft will have an internal diameter of 7.25m and will provide initial access for early underground development at the Flatreef deposit.

After the required equipment has been commissioned and licensed, the permanent sinking phase will start at an initial rate of 1.8m per day.

This phase is planned to double the existing depth of the shaft from 54m to 107m.

"This phase is planned to double the existing depth of the shaft from 54m to 107m."

Ivanhoe Mines executive chairman Robert Friedland said: “This is an important milestone in the building of a major, new underground mine at Platreef and we are extremely proud of our employees and contractors for the safe and efficient job they have done in transitioning Shaft 1 from the pre-sinking phase to the permanent-sinking phase.”

Aveng Mining secured the shaft sinking contract and will carry out work that co mprises development of two main stations at below-surface depths of 450m and 750m.

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The first shaft is expected to reach the Flatreef deposit at a depth of 777m during the third quarter of next year.

Ivanhoe owns 64% of the Platreef project through its subsidiary, Ivanplats, and is directing all mine development work.

The South African beneficiaries of the approved broad-based, black economic empowerment structure have a 26% stake in the Platreef. 

A Japanese consortium of Itochu, ITC Platinum Development, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National, and JGC own the remaining 10%.

Shaft 1 covers initial lateral underground development work, and will be funded from $280m received by Ivanhoe in 2011 for sale of an 8% interest in Platreef to the Japanese consortium led by Itochu.