The open pit Makhado project is located in the Vhembe District of the Limpopo province, South Africa.
The Makhado project is expected to produce 2.3Mt of coking coal and 3.2Mt of thermal coal a year. Image courtesy of Stahlkocher.
Hard coking coal from Makhado is proposed to be exported through the Maputo port (TCM) in Mozambique. Image courtesy of Gian.

Makhado is a coking and thermal coal project located in Vhembe District, the Limpopo province, South Africa. It is situated to the north of Soutpansberg, about 65km south-west of Musina and 35km north of Makhado town. The project is set to be the largest coking coal facility in South Africa, and is being developed by Coal of Africa (CoAL).

A Class II definitive feasibility study (DFS) on the project was released in June 2013 and environmental authorisation was granted in August 2013. The project is scheduled to commence production by the end of 2016 and is expected to produce 2.3 million tonnes (Mt) of coking coal and 3.2Mt of thermal coal a year, processing approximately 12.6 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of run-of-mine over an estimated mine life of 16 years.

Makhado is CoAL’s first project within the Greater Soutpansberg coalfield area. The total capital expenditure on the project is estimated to be R3.96bn ($406.3m).

Makhado project geology and reserves

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The Makhado coal project covers an area of 8,190ha in the Mopane Sector of the Soutpansberg coalfield and is made up of the five farms, Fripp, Tanga, Windhoek, Lukin and Salaita.

The Soutpansberg mountain range contains Karroo Sequence sediments and ranges across 560km. The rock formations found in the mountain range comprise sandstone, quartz sandstone and quartzite, along with igneous intrusions filled with basalt and dolerite.

Six potential mining horizons (seams) namely Upper Seam, Middle Upper Seam, Middle Lower Seam, Bottom Upper Seam, Bottom Middle Seam and Bottom Lower Seam have been identified in the project area. The coal seams occur within a 30m to 40m-thick carbonaceous zone of the Madzaringwe Formation and comprise inter-banded carbonaceous mudstones and coal. Coal resources at Makhado contain a high proportion of vitrinite.

The mine is estimated to contain probable reserves of 188Mt, containing 25.63Mt of hard coking coal and 44.53Mt of thermal coal.

Mining and processing of coal from Makhado mine

Conventional truck and shovel mining methods will be applied at the Makhado open cast mine. The operation will have three open pits, East Pit, Central Pit and West Pit. East pit will hold plant and infrastructure components and the capability to handle production volumes from the other pits.

"Makhado is CoAL’s first project within the Greater Soutpansberg coalfield area."

Under the initial box-cutting and ramp-building stage, the overburden waste material will be pre-stripped to establish an in-pit coal inventory.

The coal processing plant to be built to the south of East Pit will feature a double-stage dense medium separation (DMS) plant for both de-stoning and beneficiation of the hard coking coal and the thermal product.

The plant will also be fitted out with fines and ultra-fines circuits; the fines circuit will use a low-gravity reflux classifier process to produce coking coal and a high-gravity reflux classifier to produce thermal product. The ultra-fines circuit of Jameson column flotation cells will produce coking coal, and has the potential to produce thermal product.

Sale of coal from Makhado

Hard coking coal produced at Makhado is proposed to be sold domestically, as well as exported via the Maputo port (TCM) in Mozambique. CoAL has a 3Mtpa throughput allocation at the port facility.

Around 3.2Mtpa of thermal coal from the project is planned to be sold domestically to South Africa’s energy provider, Eskom.

Infrastructure facilities at the open pit coal mine

The Makhado coal project will be accessed from the N1 highway located alongside the project, using the existing road infrastructure.

"Around 3.2Mtpa of thermal coal from the project is planned to be sold domestically."

Water supply during the construction phase will be sourced from boreholes, with the Nzhelele Dam being the water source during the production phase.

Power required by the mine and the processing plant will be sourced from the Eskom Paradise substation via a 22kV overhead power line.

A 22km railway spur and rapid loading facility from the existing Huntleigh Siding will be constructed for transporting the coal to domestic and export markets.

Consultants involved with the Makhado mine development

Venmyn Deloitte was engaged to review the Makhado definitive feasibility study report and prepare an independent and updated competent persons report (CPR).

A group of consultants participated in the preparation and verification of the Makhado DFS, including Venn & Milford, MCC Contracts, VBKom Consulting Engineers, DRA and Semane Consulting Engineers.

Venn & Milford prepared the capital cost estimates, while MCC Contracts was engaged as the mining contractor specialist. VBKom Consulting Engineers was the mine design specialist and DRA was the design consultant for the coal-handling process plant. Semane Consulting Engineers was the civil, structural and infrastructure engineering consultant.

NRI Energy Technology