The underground platinum mine is estimated to produce 280,000oz per month. Image courtesy of Geoff Brown-Planet KB.
Low Profile and Extra Low Profile equipment is being used in the fourth and fifth phases of Bathopele mine development. Image courtesy of Geoff Brown- Planet KB.
The fourth phase achieved full production in 2012. Image courtesy of Geoff Brown-Planet KB.

The Bathopele platinum mine is a part of Western Limb of Bushveld Igneous Complex located near Rustenburg, South Africa. It is extended in an area of 17km² and produces an estimated 280,000t of platinum a month.

The mine is accessed through east and central shafts. A new region called the west shaft was developed from 2011 and is accessed underground from the central shaft.

Previously owned by Anglo American, the Bathopele mine produces palladium and platinum. The mine is expected to operate up to 2026.

The mine was ranked fourth in the platinum mining class for best safety performance and was awarded the technical innovation safety award for its vehicle/person detection system.

Anglo American Platinum announced the sale of the Bathopele platinum mining activities, along with associated surface facilities and related properties and liabilities to Sibanye Rustenburg Platinum Mines Proprietary in November 2016.

Bathopele mine geology

The Bathopele mine is a part of the Bushveld Igneous Complex located in the central Transvaal province. It is a pear-shaped area divided into eastern, western, and northern sections. The rock sections are believed to have formed two billion years ago.

The Bushveld Complex is a layered igneous intrusion and is extended in an area of 66,000km². It comprises a felsic phase, along with layered mafic intrusions.

The complex is made up of Upper Group 2 (UG2) reef, Merensky reef, and Plat reef. Around 90% of the world’s platinum group metals are found in UG2 and Merensky reefs. The UG2 reef comprises of 43.5% chromite while the Merensky reef contains large deposits of chromite and sulphide.

The Transvaal basin contains large deposits of platinum group metals, along with iron, tin, chromium, and vanadium.

Bathopele mine development

The platinum mine was developed in five phases. Phase 3 development was approved in February 2007 and mainly developed to limit the extension of the east and central shafts and the mining and infrastructure installation activity in phase 3 completed in 2010.

The fourth phase is an ore replacement process with an incremental production of 108,000oz per annum. It was approved in October 2008 and full production started in 2012. It involved extending the mine down-dip area, installing new infrastructure, and establishing replacement sections at an estimated investment of $76m.

Bathopele mine phase 5 was also an ore replacement project and is currently in the pre-feasibility stage. It was approved for implementation with an estimated investment of $1.23bn in 2005 and reached full production in 2017.

Phase 5 exploited the UG2 reserves by way of extending the east and central decline shafts along with performing mining activities in the west shaft. The refined platinum production in phase five was 128,000oz per annum.

A project capital of $10m was mainly spent on phase 4 and 5 projects in Bathopele.

Bathopele mine reserves

The Bathopele mine contains estimated reserves of 35Mt of grading at 2.94g/t of 4E UG2 in December 2015.

The mine was estimated to contain 2.5Mt and 5.4Mt of measured and inferred resource grading at 5.44g/t of 4E Merensky and 3.39g/t of 4E UG2.

Mining at Bathopele

Mining activity at Bathopele involves the Bord and Pillar mining layout in the low profile (LP) section, while breast mining layout is applied for the extra low profile (XLP) section. Mining is carried out depths ranging from 40m to 350m below the surface.

Ore is blasted out of the rock and transported to surface using conveyor belts. It is then taken to the Rustenburg Platinum Mine’s metallurgical facilities for concentrating and refinement.

Anglo American used Preprufe sealing strip technology at Bathopele to block the exterior and closed surfaces for unset concretes at the mine. The system helps in maintaining permeability and providing watertight and gas-proof building.

Contractors involved with Batopele platinum mine

Dywidag-Systems International (DSI) supplied rock bolts and accessories, as well as technical support, customised products, and services to the mine. It also provided reliable system solutions and different range of mining products to the platinum mine.