Vedanta Zinc International (VZI) has opened the $400m first phase of the Gamsberg mine, outside Aggeneys in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

Phase I of Gamsberg, which has a life of mine (LoM) of 13 years, will produce 4Mtpa of ore from the open pit and 250,000t/y of concentrate from its concentrator plant.

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Even though the Gamsberg zinc resource was discovered more than 40 years ago it had not been developed in the portfolios of various South African mining companies until it was purchased by Vedanta in 2011, as part of the Black Mountain Mining complex.

Vedanta approved the project in 2014, following which the first blast occurred in mid-2015.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, who opened the mine, said: “South Africa has vast undeveloped mineral deposits that we have the opportunity to exploit for the benefit of all the people of this country.

“We welcome this substantial investment by Vedanta, which not only deepens South Africa’s relationship with India but also signals Vedanta’s confidence in the future of South Africa’s mining industry.”

With a reserve and resource of more than 214Mt with a grade of between 6% and 6.5% zinc, the mine has an estimated LoM of more than 30 years.

Vedanta is currently carrying out investigations into Phase II and III, as part of which ore mined will be increased to 8Mtpa and production of zinc-in-concentrate to 450,000, and ultimately to 600,000tpa with an additional investment of $350 to $400m.

“South Africa has vast undeveloped mineral deposits that we have the opportunity to exploit for the benefit of all the people of this country.”

The company is also pursuing a feasibility study into the development and construction of a smelter-refinery complex.

During Phase I construction, the company provided employment to more than 3,000 people. Once Gamsberg starts full production, it will employ 800 to 850 people.

Digitalisation at the Gamsberg mine includes smart ore movement, spatial risk monitoring and management and collision avoidance systems.

Welcoming Ramaphosa’s opening of the Gamsberg mine, the United Association of South Africa (UASA) said: “UASA is pleased that the president is meeting promises made last year during his investment drive and we hope to see more projects like these that will greatly assist in reducing unemployment and boosting our economy, come to life.”