President Cyril Ramaphosa has officially opened Vedanta Zinc International (VZI)’s Gamsberg mine, outside Aggeneys in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province.
President Ramaphosa was joined by Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe and Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas. They were hosted by Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal, Vedanta CEO Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, and VZI CEO Deshnee Naidoo.
Cutting the ribbon at the official opening of Gamsberg are (from left): Vedanta CEO Srinivasan (Venkat) Venkatakrishnan; President Cyril Ramaphosa; Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal; VZI CEO Deshnee Naidoo; and Minister Gwede Mantashe.
The Gamsberg zinc resource, though discovered more than 40 years ago, was held undeveloped in the portfolios of various South African mining companies until Vedanta acquired it in 2011, as part of the Black Mountain Mining complex. Vedanta gave the project the go-ahead in 2014, and the first blast occurred in mid-2015 just eight months later.
Gamsberg has a reserve and resource of more than 214 Mt with a grade of between 6 % and 6,5 % zinc and an estimated life of mine (LoM) of 30+ years.
Phase 1 of Gamsberg represents a US$400 million investment by Vedanta in South Africa. It has a LoM of 13 years and will see 4 Mt/a of ore produced from the open pit and 250 000 t/a of concentrate from its concentrator plant.
President Ramaphosa and Minister Mantashe meeting some of the mining team at Gamsberg.
Investigations into Phase 2 and 3 are underway and will see ore mined increase to 8 Mt/a and production of zinc-in-concentrate to 450 000 t/a, and in a modular fashion ultimately, to 600 000 t/a. These phases will reflect an additional investment of US$350 to US$400 million.
Vedanta is simultaneously pursuing a feasibility study into the development and construction of a smelter-refinery complex, which speaks to both Vedanta and Government’s commitment to local metal beneficiation.
Over 3 000 people were employed during the construction of Phase 1 - more than half of whom were recruited from the Northern Cape, with over 25 % from local communities. When in full production Gamsberg will employ 800-850 people.
Vedanta’s CEO Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan reflected on his time in the South African mining industry and the pride he felt as President Ramaphosa opened Gamsberg. He also highlighted Vedanta’s local procurement and CSR spend, noting that “Local procurement is critical to economic development. More than 90 % of our US$400 million investment at Gamsberg has been spent in South Africa. Our expenditure with local enterprises was around R77,5 million in 2018, while we invested more than R44,6 million in 2018 on training and social projects aimed at skills development, education, health, enterprise development and municipal infrastructure support. And this was before the mine had made a single cent.”
Minster Gwede Mantashe told the gathering that “Investing in South Africa today is the correct decision, and we are happy that Vedanta has expressed its confidence in the South African economy with this investment. Mining is also the anchor of the 4th industrial revolution and that’s why we hold the view that it is a sunrise industry.”
Delivering the keynote address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the Gamsberg project was “an important step in our shared journey to revive our mining industry. It confirms our view that with an effective regulatory framework, improved collaboration between all stakeholders and sustained investment, mining has the potential to be a sunrise industry. South Africa has vast undeveloped mineral deposits that we have the opportunity to exploit for the benefit of all the people of this country.”
Gamsberg is located in the ecologically sensitive Succulent Karoo Biome – one of the world’s 35 ‘biodiversity hotspots’. VZI’s biodiversity action plan includes the preservation of plants and seeds for post-mining replanting, and a biodiversity offset programme involving the purchase of 12 500 ha of land.
Gamsberg is reported to be one of the most digitally advanced greenfields mining projects in South Africa. Digitalisation at Gamsberg includes Smart Ore Movement, Spatial Risk Monitoring and Management and Collision Avoidance Systems.
Photos courtesy of VZI