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(last updated 31 Jul 2020)
The following companies are performing uranium prospection and/or exploration in South Africa: Acclaim Exploration NL , Uranium One Inc., Simmer and Jack Mines Ltd, First Uranium Corp., Uramin Inc., Yellowcake PLC , Brinkley Mining Plc , Western Uranium Pty Ltd, Lonrho Africa Plc, Witwatersrand Consolidated Gold Resources Ltd. , DRDGold Limited, Mintails Ltd , Mineral & Mining Reclamation Services (Pty) Ltd, GoldStone Resources Ltd , Superior Mining International Corporation , Peninsula Energy Ltd , White Rivers Exploration (Pty) Ltd , Urafields , African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation (AEMFC) , Batla Minerals SA , Paddy's Pad 1183 (Pty) Ltd.
White Rivers Explorations applied in 2008 for prospecting rights for coal, gold and uranium on about 80 farms in the area around and within the Vredefort Dome.
"It seems the Department of Minerals and Energy are going to allow prospecting on the boundaries," said Stephen de la Harpe, the chairperson of the Vredefort Dome Conservancy. "Our problem is not about prospecting so much, but if mining becomes a possibility, that will destroy the site."
The government looks set to proclaim the Vredefort Dome as a World Heritage Site by the end of 2009, putting an end to almost four years of wrangling between the state and private landowners over its protection. The Dome, near Parys, is believed to be the oldest and largest meteorite impact site on Earth, and became South Africa's seventh World Heritage Site in July 2005. (Saturday Star Feb. 14, 2009)
> Opposition: Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (Safcei) · Stop Uranium Mining in the Karoo (Facebook)
Peninsula Energy Ltd to leave Karoo uranium mine project:
On Oct. 18, 2017, Peninsula Energy Limited announced that it has decided to exit and sell its interests in the Karoo Projects in South Africa. The company has decided to focus its future capital expenditures on the operating Lance Projects in Wyoming, USA.
On Apr. 27, 2018, Peninsula Energy Ltd announced that the company "has decided to fully withdraw from any further development activities for the Karoo Projects in which it has an interest."
On Nov. 29, 2018, Peninsula Energy Ltd further announced: "We also made a decision to exit the Karoo Project after unsuccessfully trying to divest the project."
On July 30, 2019, Peninsula Energy Ltd announced that it is working together with its joint venture partners and the South African regulators to ensure an orderly exit from the project, including completion of remaining restoration and rehabilitation activities. Negotiations with the National Nuclear Regulator and other government agencies in South Africa continue to progress and the Company is targeting commenced of rehabilitation of the historic trial mining areas toward end of the 2019 calendar year. The company continues to pursue the sale of the 322 km2 freehold farmland in the Karoo Basin, the proceeds of which are expected to be sufficient to cover remaining rehabilitation costs.
Public comment period reopened on groundwater report of Quaggasfontein area of revised Karoo uranium mining project:
Tasman RSA Mines are providing an additional comment period of 14 days until 22 September 2017 for review and comment on the Quaggasfontein specialist groundwater report titled Karoo Uranium Project Groundwater Investigation: Quaggasfontein Area: Open Pit Mining (SRK, April 2017). The report had been omitted from the appendices due to a clerical error.
An additional timeline extension has been granted by the DMR. Comments will now be received until 17h00 on 11 October 2017.
> Download: Quaggasfontein specialist groundwater report , April 2017 (11MB PDF)
Draft EIA and EMP documents for Ryst Kuil and Quaggasfontein areas of revised Karoo uranium mining project open for public comment:
The draft Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Programme reports (EIA/EMPr) for the Ryst Kuil - and Quaggasfontein application areas are now available for public comment from 4 August 2017 - 7 September 2017.
(Tasman RSA Mines Aug. 3, 2017)
> Download draft EIA/EMP documents: Ryst Kuil (14 PDF files in 135MB Zip file) · Quaggasfontein (14 PDF files in 120MB Zip file)
Additional comments invited on supplementary information released for EIA/EMP of Karoo uranium mine project:
"As the Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) for the Karoo Uranium Project (KUP) we appreciate the time and effort taken by many stakeholders/IAP's to provide comments on the Kareepoort project EIA/EMP, much of which has been valuable input. Based on this feedback as well as the additional information that has been compiled on the Nananthus species, an additional comment period has been scheduled to allow stakeholders to provide further comment on these documents. The comment period will run from 21 July 2017 to 23 August 2017."
(Tasman RSA Mines July 21, 2017)
> Download: Additional Documents (Dropbox)
Possibly new succulent species discovered in area of proposed Karoo uranium mine:
With the dust starting to fly in earnest over proposed uranium mining near the Eastern Cape Karoo town of Aberdeen, a tiny succulent has surfaced as a possible new role player.
The plant was discovered by Phillip McNaughton and his wife, Joan, on their farm Kariegesfontein, 45km west of Aberdeen, and subsequently on neighbour Chris Hayward's farm.
McNaughton's posting on Ispot Nature sparked immediate interest from international experts who said it could be a new species.
McNaughton is hoping their discovery could flag the ecological diversity of the area and the huge and multi-layered costs that could be incurred if the uranium mining goes ahead. While Kariegesfontein is just outside Tasman South Africa's proposed 35 000ha Kareepoort mining bloc and Hayward's farm is inside the bloc, the wind is the key, he said yesterday.
"We have big winds around here and, with the prevailing one being northwest, we are directly downwind of the proposed mine," McNaughton said.
"We are concerned that uranium mining could generate radioactive dust which could threaten not only us and our workers, our livestock, our meat and our mohair but also the natural environment, including this possibly unique plant." (HeraldLIVE Mar. 22, 2017)
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report and Environmental Management Programme (EMP) document for revised Karoo uranium mining project open for public comment:
Tasman Pacific Minerals Limited and Lukisa JV Company (Pty) Ltd are applying for mining rights for uranium ore (U) and molybdenum ore (Mo) for a period of 30 years. The companies are subsidiaries of Peninsula Energy Limited , an ASX-listed company based in Perth, Australia. The proposed mining operation is to be known as the Tasman RSA Mines and will be operated as a single entity, but with multiple production centres (Kareeport, Ryst Kuil, and Quaggasfontein) feeding a central processing plant to be located near the main ore body within the Ryst Kuil project area.
Ferret Mining and Environmental Services (Pty) Ltd was appointed, independent environmental consultants, to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and public participation process for the proposed mining operation, beginning on March 10, 2017.
> Submit comments by: April 18, 2017.
> Access Mining Right Applications documents (Dropbox)
Size of proposed Karoo uranium mine project reduced to 12% of initial plan:
Today, the Karoo uranium mining developers Australian Tasman Pacific Minerals Limited
and the South African Lukisa JVCo have announced the withdrawal of their joint
application for mining rights to 570,000 hectares of Central Karoo farmlands in the
"Tasman has therefore withdrawn all its mining rights applications lodged in the Western and Northern Cape and lodged new Mining Rights applications in the Western Cape limited to areas that are located within the original Eastern and Quaggasfontein Blocks." (Cited from the Update to the IAPs on 6 July 2016)
In essence, this announcement indicates that the current mining rights application is cut down to 12 % of the original application. For this 12 % (or 73,000 ha) a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process is to start all over again. (SAFCEI July 6, 2016)
Watchdog alleges Russian interests driving uranium mine development in the Karoo:
Faith-based environmental watchdog Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) has accused Russian interests of driving the development of uranium mines in the Karoo.
Safcei science adviser Dr Stefan Cramer said during an event in Johannesburg earlier this month that Russian government and private sector entities were the "real backers" of ASX-listed uranium miner Peninsula Energy's plan to develop uranium mines in the region which crosses into the Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. He contended that the company did so by developing partnerships over time with different nuclear corporations, such as UraMin and Areva, thus gaining access to all earlier exploration data.
"Peninsula's working capital comes from several institutional investors, but is dominated by private equity and a venture capital firm Pala Investments. The company is controlled and run by the Russian oligarch billionaires Vladimir Lorich and his son Evgeniy Lorich." (Mining Weekly May 27, 2016)
Watchdog claims poor public participation for Karoo uranium mine proposal:
The uranium mining industry is cause for concern and will create significant challenges for the Karoo community near Beaufort West, in the Western Cape, asserts faith-based environmental watchdog Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (Safcei) science adviser Dr Stefan Cramer.
He contends that the community has not been properly consulted by the environmental practitioners and governmental structures with regard to the municipalities' Integrated Development Plan and on a district and provincial level on the arrival of uranium mining.
Flaws of the PPP include the scoping process, commenting periods not being properly announced, application documents not being made publically available, notices of public consultations being too short, invitations to the PPP meeting not being delivered, the cutoff date for comments not being announced and comments from the scoping process not taken into consideration, he explains. (Mining Weekly Apr. 1, 2016)
Residents divided over Karoo uranium mine proposal:
The Environmental Impact Assessment Report and Environmental Management Programme document submitted to the Department of Mineral Resources on 25 January this year states that the risk of uranium contamination is high.
It states that accidental contamination of water systems with potentially radioactive material is possible.
Billy Steenkamp, co-founder of the Indigenous People's Association for Community Economic Development of South Africa (Ipaced SA) says the fact that the Karoo is already a water scarce area is a huge concern.
At a public participation meeting in Beaufort West on 22 February, residents were conflicted over the proposed mine, with some saying they wanted jobs while others protested about the environmental threat.
Another resident Carl Potgieter complained about health implications and that the risk of lung cancer wasn't mentioned.
Residents have until 15 March 2016 to comment on the proposal covering land in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape provinces. These comments will form part of the group's mining rights application, which will be submitted to the Department of Mineral Resources for review. (eNCA Mar. 11, 2016)
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report and Environmental Management Programme (EMP) document for Karoo uranium mining project open for public comment:
On Feb. 22, 2016, TASMAN RSA MINES called for public input into their uranium mining application.
Submit comments by March 15, 2016.
> Access TASMAN RSA MINES DOCUMENT SHARING (Dropbox)
Interestingly, instead of a Radiation Assessment, the Environmental Management Programmes (EMP) for the various project areas all contain a statement of the Environment Department saying that such an assessment is unnecessary (see details).
> Download Generic Submission Text on the Uranium Mining Rights Application by Tasman RSA Mines, 2016 , by Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (Dropbox - Microsoft Word)
Mining rights applications filed for Peninsula Energy's Karoo uranium and molybdenum projects:
Peninsula Energy Limited announced subsidiaries Lukisa JV Company (Pty) Ltd and Tasman Pacific Minerals Limited are applying for mining rights for uranium and molybdenum in the Karoo region of South Africa (spread between the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape Provinces) approximately 400 km northeast of Cape Town.
The proposed mining operation is to be known as the Tasman RSA Mines and will be operated as a single entity, but with multiple production centres feeding a central processing plant (CPP) to be located near the main orebody (Ryst Kuil) of the initial mining stages (within the Eastern Block application area).
Where orebodies lie close to the surface, they would be accessed by open cut mining, involving a pit and the removal of much overburden (overlying rock) as well as a lot of waste rock (Roll over mining). Where orebodies are deeper, underground mining would be employed, involving construction of access shafts and tunnels but with less waste rock removed and less environmental impact.
On June 2, 2015, comments on the projects were invited for submission by July 30, 2015.
> Download Resubmitted notifications and environmental authorisation applications, June 2, 2015
> Download Initial notifications and environmental authorisation applications, June 12, 2014
Positive scoping study announced for Karoo uranium / molybdenum mine projects: On Sep. 18, 2013, Peninsula Energy Ltd that a scoping study was completed on Karoo Eastern Sector Projects. Based on the positive results of the scoping study the company plans to commence a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) in the fourth quarter of 2013.
On Dec. 19, 2013, Peninsula Energy announced that it has completed the acquisition of the former Areva South Africa (ARSA) held mineral properties (including Ryst Kuil) that form part of the Karoo Uranium Projects in the Western Cape, South Africa.
> For more recent news, see Karoo projects
On Dec. 11, 2012, Peninsula Energy announced the acquisition of Areva South Africa's uranium/molybdenum projects portfolio in the Karoo Basin, South Africa.
On Dec. 13, 2011, Areva announced the suspension of the Ryst Kuil uranium mine project. (AFP Dec. 13, 2011)
Uramin Inc. plans to build a uranium mine in the Karoo at a cost of $219 million (R1.6 billion). The company's new business and technical manager Keith Kenyon said that the Ryst Kuil project in the Karoo was likely to achieve an average output of 1745 tons a year of uranium oxide by the fourth quarter of 2009. (Business Report Mar. 30, 2007)
On March 13, 2007, UraMin Inc. announced that SRK Consulting (US) Inc. of Denver, Colorado has been appointed to undertake Consulting and Engineering Services for the completion of the Definitive Feasibility Study ("DFS") for the Ryst Kuil Project (including the Ryst Kuil, Riet Kuil and Tanqua properties) in the West Beaufort area of South Africa.
> See also: Study highlights environmental hazards from abandoned uranium trial mines in the Karoo Uranium Province
On Aug. 7, 2007, DRDGold Ltd announced 'encouraging' results from a recently completed drilling programme to define the uranium (U308) resource in its Blyvooruitzicht (Blyvoor) operation's slime dam material.
During the March quarter, 36 boreholes were drilled in Blyvoor's seven slimes dams, showing U3O8 concentrations in the range of 39 to 93 ppm [0.0033 - 0.0079% U]. Volumes of the slimes dams were surveyed and their total tonnage calculated at 107.7 million tonnes.
In addition, Blyvoor has sampled both its underground and slimes reclamation feeds over a period of 10 weeks. The surface feed averaged 0.073 kg/t U308 [0.0062% U], and the underground feed 0.070 kg/t U308 [0.0059% U].
Until 1981, Blyvoor extracted U308 as a by-product to its core gold production activities. It currently treats approximately 60,000 underground tonnes and 290,000 tonnes of surface material a month to recover gold.
On April 26, 2007, DRDGold Limited and Mintails Ltd announced that they had reached agreement on the formation of a joint venture company which is yet to be formed, in South Africa to explore, evaluate and potentially mine gold and uranium by opencast and underground mining methods in the Western Rand Goldfield of South Africa's Witwatersrand Basin.
The JV stakeholders DRDGOLD, Mintails SA (wholly owned by Mintails Limited) and Mineral & Mining Reclamation Services (Pty) Ltd (MMRS) have agreed to consolidate their West Rand Goldfield projects comprising Rand Leases, Durban Roodepoort Deep, East Champ D'Or, Luipaardsvlei and West Rand Consolidated (including West Wits). Initially, DRDGOLD and Mintails SA will hold 45% each in the JV and MMRS will hold 10%.
Tribunal dismisses appeal against water-use license for Buffelsfontein Mine Waste Solutions tailings project:
On Jan. 4, 2012, First Uranium Corporation announced "that it has received official notification that the South African Water Tribunal has dismissed the appeal lodged by the Federation for a Sustainable Environment ("FSE") against Mine Waste Solutions' Water Use Licence. The ruling vindicates the Company's decision to continue operating the Mine Waste Solutions project in accordance with the terms and conditions of its valid water use licence since the purported appeal was lodged in March 2011. The Water Tribunal found that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case and consequently the FSE had no legal standing to bring the appeal. As a result the Water Tribunal has closed its file on the matter."
On Feb. 1, 2012, First Uranium Corporation announced that the Federation for a Sustainable Environment is appealing the decision of the South African Water Tribunal.
First Uranium continues operation of Mine Waste Solutions tailings reprocessing project in spite of mining right withdrawal:
First Uranium has taken legal advice on the mining permit and water licence issues and production has continued unabated at Mine Waste.
First Uranium's legal advice was that tailings recovery projects do not fall under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, meaning the letter from Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu last month withdrawing the mining right at Mine Waste did not apply, Mr van der Mescht said.
The department could issue a closure or suspension notice for Mine Waste but First Uranium would embark on legal action to protect the operation, he said.
"Mine Waste Solutions must be subject to government regulations because there are environmental consequences for what it is doing," department spokesman Bheki Khumalo said. (Business Day Oct. 13, 2011)
Ministry withdraws mining right for Mine Waste Solutions tailings reprocessing project: On Sep. 16, 2011, First Uranium Corporation announced that it has received a letter from the South African Minister of Mineral Resources purporting to "withdraw" the new order mining right to Mine Waste Solutions ("MWS"), in terms of Section 23 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002.
Nuclear Regulator orders halt of tailings disposal at Mine Waste Solutions tailings project:
First Uranium suspended operations at its Mine Waste Solutions project in
South Africa on Monday (July 25), following an order from the country's
nuclear regulator over concerns about a pipeline at the
tailings reprocessing project.
The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) ordered First Uranium
to cease depositing materials at tailings storage facilities at
the operation, citing concerns over pipeline maintenance and
First Uranium said it is in "material compliance" with nuclear regulations and that it had sought an injunction allowing it to restart the project. The halt order has to do with the pipeline used to pump tailings material that has been reprocessed to extract gold and uranium into a new tailings storage facility, said company Vice-President Mary Batoff. (Reuters July 25, 2011)
On Aug. 2, 2011, First Uranium announced that it has received conditional permission from the National Nuclear Regulator to resume operations at its Mine Waste Solutions project.
Minister urged to act in Buffelsfontein Mine Waste Solutions tailings dam dispute:
A dispute between First Uranium subsidiary Mine Waste Solutions and environmental activists over a gold and uranium tailings recovery operation being built in the Vaal area may head to the courts soon if Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa does not say whether work on the plant should stop.
The Federation for a Sustainable Environment said yesterday (July 4) because the tailings dam was not lined with plastic it would let mine water seep into the immediate environment, including the Vaal River, which supplies water to SA's economic heartland. Sustainable Environment has accused Mine Waste Solutions of continuing work when the National Water Act stipulated its lodging of an appeal automatically suspended work. Sustainable Environment CEO Mariette Liefferink said the Department of Water Affairs had not properly exercised its discretion and had failed to take the cumulative effect on water resources and the sustainability of the mining project into account when it awarded Mine Waste Solutions a water-use licence. (Business Day July 5, 2011)
Commissioning of uranium recovery plant at Buffelsfontein Mine Waste Solutions tailings project may be postponed:
First Uranium may postpone the commissioning of its uranium plant at its tailings treatment business to conserve cash ahead of a convertible debenture that matures in June next year, CEO Deon van der Mescht said yesterday (June 6).
The postponement is designed to keep as much cash on the company's books ahead of the maturation of the debenture, he said.
First Uranium, which is primarily a gold producer at this point, is ramping up production at Mine Waste Solutions (MWS), which has three gold modules treating tailings material to the west of Johannesburg. The MWS uranium plant, which is largely complete, was to be commissioned around September this year, but this could be pushed back to around the middle of next year, Mr van der Mescht said. Feeding into the decision whether to defer the commissioning are the low uranium prices, which have been fallen because of developments in the nuclear industry stemming from the earthquake hit Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. (Business Day June 7, 2011)
Group appeals against water-use license for Buffelsfontein Mine Waste Solutions tailings project:
A legal dispute over the creation of a super-dump to process radioactive gold-mining waste near the Vaal River may set a pattern for the rehabilitation of hundreds of toxic dumps on the Witwatersrand.
But the plan is controversial. The non-profit Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) appealed against a water-use licence granted for the dump, citing fears that it is leaking uranium and other cancer-causing heavy metals into Gauteng's main water source. The FSE said this week that the project should be suspended.
But Mine Waste Solutions, a subsidiary of mining giant Simmer & Jack, which is creating the dump after extracting uranium and gold from 15 old dumps near Stilfontein, said that it was a model clean-up and rehabilitation project.
The Legal Resources Centre was preparing this week to take the stand-off to court. "The case could set a precedent for other planned mega-dumps," said attorney Naseema Fakir. "It's about community participation and administrative justice."
Objecting to the authorisation of the super-dump, about 2 km from the Vaal, the FSE said correct procedures were not followed and the local community was not kept informed. It initiated the case on behalf of local residents and the Paradyskop Conservancy, who rely on shallow boreholes for drinking water. FSE's chief executive Mariette Liefferink said Mine Waste Solutions originally undertook to line parts of the dump with heavy-duty plastic to prevent seepage and to build a sulphuric acid plant to counter acid drainage. It appeared to have reneged on this. "There's a very high risk of large quantities of polluted water entering the Vaal catchment," she said. (Mail & Guardian May 6, 2011)
Buffelsfontein Mine Waste Solutions tailings project commissioned: On April 19, 2011, First Uranium Corporation announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Mine Waste Solutions ("MWS"), has commissioned its tailings storage facility ("TSF"). First Uranium's President and CEO, Deon van der Mescht, said, "The commissioning of the new TSF is a major milestone as it secures the future of the MWS project, allowing it to re-treat 15 tailings dams for the gold and uranium content over the 15 year life of the operation".
Work has re-commenced on Buffelsfontein Mine Waste Solutions tailings project:
South Africa's MDM Engineering Group Limited has announced that work has re-commenced on First Uranium's Mine Waste Solutions (MWS) Phase 2 project in Stilfontein, after its suspension earlier this year.
Construction on the plant started in August 2010 and will see an increase in gold tailings processed by a further 650,000 tpm. The plant and pipeline feeds are expected to be complete by March 2011.
The overall project comprises the treatment of material from fourteen tailings dams, twelve of which originated from the original processing of material from the Buffelsfontein and Hartebeestfontein gold operations and two tailings dams, which originated from the processing of material from the Stilfontein gold mine. The project had been suspended due to the withdrawal of the environmental authorization for a new tailings storage facility designed to accommodate future tailings deposition capacity requirements. The problem has since been resolved allowing the project to be resumed. (Mineweb Oct. 5, 2010)
Mining company keeps back environmental studies on impact of planned "super dump" tailings dam:
First Uranium subsidiary Mine Waste Solutions says it is withholding information from the Federation for a Sustainable Environment on the potential effect of its controversial Klerksdorp waste dump, 1 km from the Vaal River.
This appears to contravene environmental regulations as affected stakeholders are not able to evaluate the risks of the planned development, the federation said.
The federation fears the mine dump, set to be on-stream next May, could pollute the Vaal River system, contaminate groundwater and create acid mine drainage. "Land owners will have to carry the long- term risks, so they have the right to know about these risks," federation CE Mariette Liefferink said. There was insufficient information in the environmental impact assessment and in the environmental management plan to support the facility, she said.
But Mine Waste said it conducted independent environmental studies as part of the environmental impact assessment, including the potential effect on groundwater. The company's chief operating officer, Scot Sobey, said extra studies of the facility's effect had been undertaken, but would not hand this information to the federation. He said it was the company's policy "not to hand over documents in isolation to prevent interest groups from raising issues out of context". (Business Day Sep. 2, 2010 - emphasis added)
Buffelsfontein tailings project receives water-use license: South Africa's Water Affairs Department has granted First Uranium a new-order water-use licence for its Mine Waste Solutions (MWS) operation, the company announced on Monday (June 21). (Mining Weekly June 21, 2010)
Tailings storage facility for Buffelsfontein tailings project to be commissioned by May 2011: First Uranium Corp said it expects to start construction of a key mine-waste storage facility in South Africa by November and sees commissioning by May 2011. (Reuters Mar. 22, 2010)
Environmental authorization for "super dump" tailings dam reinstated: On Feb. 25, 2010, First Uranium Corporation announced that it has been notified by the North West Provincial Government's Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Rural Development that they have issued a positive decision on the amendment application lodged by MWS last year pertaining to the Environmental Authorization for a future Tailings Storage Facility for its Mine Waste Solutions tailings reclamation project near the town of Stilfontein, North West Province, South Africa.
Environmental authorization for "super dump" tailings dam withdrawn: On Jan. 20, 2010, First Uranium Corporation announced that it has been notified by the North West Provincial Government's Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Rural Development (NWDACE) of their decision to withdraw the company's environmental authorization for a new Tailings Storage Facility designed to accommodate future tailings deposition capacity requirements at the company's Mine Waste Solutions (MWS) tailings recovery project in South Africa.
Authorization for "super dump" tailings dam withdrawn: On Nov. 5, 2009, First Uranium Corporation announced that it had temporarily suspended its work in preparation of the site for a new Tailings Storage Facility ("TSF"), which is designed to accommodate future tailings deposition capacity requirements. After granting an authorization to proceed with the new TSF, regulators have withdrawn that authorization pending further discussions with the company.
Vaal residents in uproar over authorisation of toxic dump:
Despite vociferous protest from farmers and environmental groups, the government has given initial authorisation for the building of a "super dump" toxic slime dam close to the banks of the Vaal River and adjacent to a nature conservancy.
Residents in the area say they have not been consulted on the development that will not only ruin their view over the river and across the veld, but will create an unhealthy environment for them to live in.
First Uranium subsidiary Mine Waste Solutions, which will build the mega tailings storage facility, is already clearing the ground and erecting pipes, says Mariette Liefferink, CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment. (Business Day Aug. 18, 2009)
On Aug. 3, 2009, The Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) filed an appeal against the positive authorisation for the Mine Waste Solutions reworking of tailings storage facility project. The appeal alleges that the project's impact prediction was imperfect and the public participation process was inadequate.
The time period for submission of appeals ends on August 23, 2009.
On Dec. 19, 2007, First Uranium Corporation announced the results of its pre-feasibility study (PFS) on its Buffelsfontein Tailings Recovery Project in South Africa.
Based on the PFS, which was prepared by Minxcon Pty. Ltd., First Uranium intends to immediately start construction for the expansion of the existing gold plant and the initial two modules of a new uranium plant at the Project, with commissioning expected in November 2008. The third and final modules of the gold plant and the uranium plant are to be commissioned in November 2009.
With all three modules of the uranium plant in operation, the annual uranium production would be 1.339 million lbs U3O8 [515 t U]. The total life of mine production would be 20.078 million lbs U3O8 [7,722 t U] at a uranium recovery rate of 33%.
Simmers plans an Initial Public Offering for First Uranium later this year. The listing would aim to raise up to C$75m, which would be enough to fully finance the Buffelsfontein tailings project. Simmers expects to ramp up uranium output to around 1.3 million lb [500 t U] by 2008. Buffelsfontein has about 45 million lb [17,300 t U] of measured and indicated resources of uranium in the tailings and there is potentially more at the Randfontein mine, according to chief executive Gordon Miller. (Reuters June 15, 2006)
First Uranium (Pty) Ltd has completed a mineral resource estimate for all surface tailings dams at the Buffelsfontein mine. The 283 million t of tailings contain 16,786 t U at a concentration of 0.0057% U and 2.8 million ounces of gold grading at 0.3 g/t. Initial results indicate a 15-year project life, with the potential to extract 4620 t U and 1.3 million ounces of gold from the tailings. (Simmer & Jack Mines, Limited, Jan. 24, 2006)
On May 22, 2009, First Uranium Corporation announced that the commissioning of the uranium plant at the Company's South African underground uranium and gold mine, the Ezulwini Mine, has been completed and uranium production has commenced.
First Uranium has started commissioning the uranium plant at its Ezulwini mine, in South Africa, and expects to produce the first yellowcake during the current quarter, CEO Gordon Miller said on Feb. 10, 2009. (Mining Weekly Feb. 10, 2009)
First Uranium said, uranium production at its Ezulwini mine had been delayed further by construction hitches, and output would now start in the first three months of 2009. The company suffered a previous setback and said in August the late delivery of equipment had delayed the start of uranium production at the mine to October from August this year. First Uranium, a unit of South Africa's Simmer & Jack Mines, said the next milestone for Ezulwini is the commissioning of the 100,000 tonne per month uranium plant, which is expected to start production early next year. (Reuters Nov. 27, 2008)
On Feb. 19, 2008, Simmer and Jack Mines announced that the full commissioning of the gold and uranium plant at its Ezulwini mine west of Johannesburg would be delayed for about a year, as a result of the slower increase in production due to the power shortages. The plants were originally scheduled to be commissioned January 2009, but would be delayed until January 2010. (Business Report Feb. 20, 2008)
On Aug. 13, 2007, First Uranium Corp announced, that to date, US$29.1 million has been spent on re-opening and re-furbishing the Ezulwini Mine. The shaft stabilization is on track for completion in September 2007 and the Corporation expects to commence hoisting ore in October 2007. The first uranium plant module is on track for completion in June 2008 to achieve an average annual production 888,000 pounds of uranium [342 t U] over the 18-year life of the mine.
Ezulwini Mining Company (Pty) Limited, has completed an independent Mineral Resource statement for its Ezulwini project, following the completion of phase one of a bankable feasibility study.
According to the first phase of the study, the project is financially viable and technically possible, putting the life of mine at approximately twenty years. Gold reserves are expected to offset significantly the extraction costs of the uranium deposits. Historically, uranium was mined from the Middle Elsburg section of the mine but the plant was decommissioned in the late 1990s following the collapse of the uranium price. (Simmer & Jack Sep. 7, 2006)
Simmer and Jack Mines Ltd plans an IPO to raise funds to complete the first phase of the Randfontein project through its Ezulwini subsidiary and fund the second phase. The firm's board is due to give the green light for the initial phase of gold production later in June 2006 and a feasibility study to also mine uranium there in a second phase is due in September 2006, chief executive Gordon Miller said. (Reuters June 15, 2006)
On July 9, 2007, the first shipment of ammonium diuranate (ADU) was shipped from the Dominion Reefs Uranium Mine near Klerksdorp. ADU is a concentrate containing uranium which after calcining is converted into uranium oxide (U3O8). The shipment was delivered to the facilities of Nuclear Fuels Corporation of South Africa ("Nufcor SA").
On May 18, 2007, sxr Uranium One Inc. announced the production of the first ammonium diuranate (ADU) whilst commissioning the solvent extraction circuit at its Dominion Reefs Uranium Mine near Klerksdorp. The ADU will be further processed into U3O8 (yellow cake) in Nufcor's calcining plant.
Processing of underground uranium ore at its Dominion Reefs Uranium Mine commenced on schedule this week following the successful hot commissioning of the atmospheric leach circuit at the Dominion mill. (SXR March 1, 2007)
The South African Department of Minerals and Energy ("DME") has granted SXR Uranium One a new order mining right for the Dominion Uranium Project under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 2002. The mining right has been granted for an initial period of 30 years. The area covered by the mining right comprises approximately 14,000 hectares. (SXR Oct. 11, 2006)
In the last week of September 2005, Aflease CEO Neal Froneman presided over a small ceremony to clear the ground ahead of the construction of a new Rand 500 million [US$ 79 million] processing plant at its Dominion Reefs uranium mine near Klerksdorp. The plant is due to be up and running in the first quarter of 2007, when production is due to begin at Dominion Reefs. The plant is sited alongside Aflease's existing gold plant, and at full production, throughput capacity at the uranium plant is planned to be 210,000 tons a month, with expected recoveries in excess of 90%. (Aflease Sep. 30, 2005)
On May 8, 2014, Sibanye Gold Ltd announced the closing of the acquisition of Gold One International Limited's West Rand operations ("Cooke operations").
On March 26, 2012, MDM Engineering Group Limited announced that it has been appointed by Gold One to undertake the definitive feasibility study review, value engineering and re-estimation of the capital cost for the Cooke Uranium Project.
On Jan. 9, 2012, Gold One International Ltd announced that it has acquired 100% of Rand Uranium Co.
Burst Cooke tailings dam sends toxic mud into Wonderfonteinspruit river:
A massive slimes dam tore open in Westonaria this week during heavy rains, unleashing a torrent of water and mining sludge, described by witnesses as a "cascading waterfall" and a "loud roar".
And for local residents and environmental activist Mariette Liefferink, the breach of the Cooke tailings dam evoked memories of the Merriespruit disaster in 1994. Then 17 people died, and several hundred were injured, when a Harmony Gold dam collapsed, sending a mudslide through the Free State town of Virginia.
"A breach in the wall can have devastating consequences,", said Liefferink, who explained this week's spillage was radioactive and toxic. "That slurry was like a waterfall, you could hear it like a loud roar. The slurry poured significant volumes into the Wonderfonteinspruit, which flows into the Boskop Dam, part of the main Reservoir to Potchefstroom." Authorities had to cordon off the area until the spill was contained.
Rand Uranium dismissed accounts of a "catastrophe" as alarmist. Spokesman Byron Kennedy blamed the breach on abnormal rain of over 130 mm failing in a few hours. "This caused excess volumes of water to accumulate on the top of the dam, resulting in the run-off. The water overflowed the containment walls on the top of the dam, causing the steam to run down the side of the dam. "The majority of the runoff was caught in the containment dams situated immediately at the base of the dam for exactly this purpose. Our team estimate around 10 percent of the stream flowed beyond the containment dams". He claimed preliminary samples of the run-off and of the water in the Wonderfonteinspruit did not indicate any signs of contamination. "The run-off that made it to the Wonderfonteinspruit was largely water. The slimes currently deposited onto the dam is from a sand tailings dam that is being mined. This sand is only mined and treated for gold as it has very low uranium levels." (Saturday Star Dec. 18, 2010)
Rand Uranium Co project not feasible at current uranium prices: Construction of the proposed R 3.5 billion [US$ 492 million] Rand Uranium plant to be built near Randfontein could be delayed because of current low uranium prices. That's according to Harmony CEO, Graham Briggs, who was replying to a question posed after his presentation to the Denver Gold Forum being held in Denver, Colorado. Harmony holds a 40% stake in the unlisted Rand Uranium into which it injected assets formerly belonging to the Cooke and Randfontein sections of the Randfontein mine including the high uranium grade Cooke tailings dump. Briggs told the conference that: "Rand Uranium is a great project at a uranium price of $65/lb. At prices closer to $45/lb it is not so great and you probably would not make that investment." (MiningMX Sep. 22, 2010)
South African junior miner Rand Uranium has announced that it will invest R3.5 billion [US$ 468 million] in the construction of a new uranium processing plant. The announcement followed the successful completion of the feasibility studies in December last year. The plant would have an annual treatment capacity of 5.4 million tons. The uranium plant would receive and process "ores" recovered from the Cooke tailings dam, which contained 83 million tons of uranium "ore" and would operate for nearly 17 years. Expansion of the Cooke underground mining operations would also contribute approximately 10% of the plant feed. It was expected that the processing plant would produce between 2.3 million pounds and 2.5 million pounds of uranium [885 - 962 t U] a year. (Mining Weekly Feb. 4, 2010)
Rand Uranium was likely to produce its first uranium metal by the middle of 2012 - up to six months later than the firm previously expected, chief executive John Munro said.
The delay to initial production was because the formation of Rand Uranium and the prefeasibility study had taken longer than expected and the company had decided to do a more extensive feasibility study in light of the difficult financial markets.
Rand Uranium is a $420m joint venture between Harmony Gold and Pamodzi Resources Fund.
At full production Rand Uranium was likely to produce just more than 2 million pounds of uranium [769 t U] a year. Most uranium that the company would produce would come from the Cooke mine dump near Randfontein. On top of the uranium production, Rand Uranium was likely to produce between 150,000 and 200,000 ounces of gold a year from reprocessing the Cooke dump and underground mine. The dump had a gold resource of 680,000 ounces and a uranium resource of 39 million pounds [15,000 t U]. Munro said the Cooke dump, two further mine dumps and the Cooke mine had uranium resources of about 100 million pounds [38,462 t U] based on historic estimates. Rand Uranium expected to produce uranium metal on a equivalent basis at $25 a pound, compared with the prevailing spot uranium price of $49 a pound. (Business Report June 1, 2009)
The venture will be known as Rand Uranium Co. (Bloomberg Apr. 17, 2008)
Harmony Gold has sold a 60 percent stake of a new company it formed to house uranium assets for $252 million to Africa's biggest private equity fund, Pamodzi Resources Fund , Harmony said on Dec. 19, 2007.
Harmony retains a 40 percent stake in the new company.
The new uranium firm will operate the Cooke Section of Harmony's Randfontein mine, 35 km south-west of Johannesburg. Graham Briggs, Harmony's acting chief executive, said the new company would seek funds to build a uranium plant with an output of 500,000 tons of ore a month and a new gold waste site at a cost of about 1.7 billion rand ($245.2 million). The plant would produce 185,000 pounds of uranium yellow-cake [71 t U] a month or 2.2 million pounds [846 t U] a year, at a cash cost estimated at $30-35 per pound. The yellow-cake would be exported, and there were no immediate plans for it to be enriched in South Africa, Briggs said. (Harmony Gold / Reuters Dec. 19, 2007)
> View deposit info
> See also: Cooke Section / Old Randfontein Section mines
On Mar. 26, 2012, MDM Engineering Group Limited announced that it has been appointed to review and update the previous prefeasibility study for the reclamation and reprocessing of the Randfontein tailings deposits and to upgrade the study to a definitive feasibility study.
On Jan. 9, 2012, Gold One International Ltd announced that it has acquired 100% of Rand Uranium Co.
Gold One to start uranium recovery at newly acquired Rand Uranium in 2016:
Gold One CEO Neal Froneman said on Wednesday (Aug. 31) that the miner would start building its uranium plant in 2013, to process uranium ore from the recently acquired Rand Uranium operations, in South Africa.
In May, Gold One signed a $250-million takeover agreement with Rand Uranium shareholders, which include Pamodzi Uranium, Pamodzi Cooke and Armgold/Harmony Joint Investment company. The acquisition is still subject to the necessary consents being obtained from the Mineral Resources Minister.
Froneman told delegates at the Africa Downunder conference, in Perth, that the Rand Uranium assets held some 41-million pounds of uranium reserves [15,769 t U], along with a gold resource of over 13-million ounces and a gold reserve of around three-million ounces. He noted that while Gold One was in "no rush" to produce uranium, the company was hoping to start uranium production by 2016, at around 2.5-million pounds a year [962 t U/a]. (Mining Weekly Aug. 31, 2011)
[According to Gold One's Aug. 31 presentation, the uranium production will be mainly from the Cooke Dump, only a smaller percentage will be from the Cooke 2 and 3 shafts.]
On April 28, 2011, Gold One International Ltd announced that is to acquire 100% of Rand Uranium Co.
The Draft Scoping Report for the new long term tailings storage facility (TSF) is available for public comment from 12 May to 11 June 2010.
> Download Cooke uranium project: long term TSF draft scoping report, May 2010 (Golder Associates Africa)
On April 22, 2010, consultant Golder Associates Africa announced that Rand Uranium has abandoned its intention to establish a tailings super dump in the Poortjie area (Area 45), against which protest was held on April 22. Rather, Site 35 remains the favoured site for the super dump development.
A protest march is to be held on April 22, 2010, by the emerging black farmers and the Mhatammoho Agricultural Union, and the potentially affected landowners against the proposed super dump (centralized tailings storage facility) of Rand Uranium, which is proposed to be established within the Poortjie area on high agricultural land.
This is the second protest march against Rand Uranium by the potentially affected landowners and farmers.
The proposed super dump will contain 350 million tons of uraniferous tailings and will be established on 1,200 hectares of land.
The farmers and landowners claim that the public participation process was fatally flawed and that they were not consulted.
The proposed project will impact upon the Vaal Barrage Catchment, a highly compromised Catchment. (The Grootvlei Mine e.g. impacts upon the Vaal Barrage.) In terms of the Water Research Report No 1297/1/07 (2007) only 21% of the Vaal Barrage showed no evidence of cytotoxicy (i.e. toxic to human cells). The Report suggests that the underlying problems of this catchment are largely due to heavy metals. It furthermore states: "It is clear that mining operations, even after they have been discontinued, are still having a major impact on water quality in the Vaal Barrage catchment, to the extent that it can no longer be compared with other natural water systems." (Federation for a Sustainable Environment Apr. 21, 2010)
Farmers oppose use of farmland for "super-dump" of Gold Fields' and Rand Uranium Co's tailings reprocessing projects:
Plans to turn a fertile valley outside Johannesburg into a "super-dump" of toxic mine sludge the size of a city suburb has sparked an outcry from farmers, who accuse two of the country's biggest mine companies of using prime platteland as a rubbish tip.
A massive 5km by 5km stretch of farmland nestled behind a ridge close to the N12 between Johannesburg and Potchefstroom has been earmarked for two super-dumps - each about 13 times the size of a normal large mine dump - by two mine companies, Gold Fields and Rand Uranium.
The companies are in the process of drawing up detailed environmental impact assessments for the dumps and have bought up several farms in the area.
Although the final dump sites have yet to be identified, initial screening has identified the valley known as Kalbasfontein as the preferred site.
"It will be catastrophic if we lost the agricultural ground in this area," said affected farmer Jan Olivier, whose 680ha maize farm lies next to the main proposed dump site. "With all this toxic waste it will be like a death sentence over our area," he said. Rand Uranium plans a super-dump big enough to receive up to two million tons of treated tailings per month for about 20 years - about 480 million tons in total. Although the companies say the consolidated dumps - technically known as tailings storage facilities - will be more environmentally friendly than the current smaller dumps, affected farmers believe the dumps may contaminate ground water and cause major dust storms. (The Times Aug. 22, 2009)
The reprocessing of various dumps within Cooke Section and Old Randfontein Section is planned, whereby "a significant amount of environmental rehabilitation will take place". The total amount of tailings at the site is 395.6 million t. The tailings dumps will be mined using high-pressure water cannons to re-pulp the slurry, which will then be pumped to processing plants and separated into gold and uranium using a leach process. (Harmony Gold / Reuters Dec. 19, 2007)
Mining company Harmony Gold is investigating the possibility of remining old tailings dams at its Randfontein operations, on the West Rand.
The project, which forms part of a larger venture that includes the remining and processing of 56 historic tailings dams at the company's operations in Randfontein, Evander and Welkom, all aiming to extract gold and uranium.
Harmony says in a statement that there are ten old historic tailings dams in the Randfontein area that are being considered as part of this project. The proposed operation will process about 400-million tons from the existing tailings dams at the Randfontein mining operations. Approximately 2.5-million tons of tailings are expected to be mined each month, and the project is expected to continue for 12 to 15 years.
The mining operations will consolidate the residue tailings from the processing plant into one "megatailings" facility. The project's megatailings facility will stretch over an area of 800 ha and will be 37 m in height. It will be able to accommodate 468-million tons of tailings over the life span of the project.
The project will consist of pipelines that will supply water to the mining areas and transport the slurry to the processing plant, where the gold and/or uranium will be removed from the tailings. The pipelines will also supply water for the processing plant, and the transportation of tailings residue to the new megatailings facility. These tailings will then be deposited at the megatailings facility, where the water will be collected for reuse.
Harmony has appointed Golder Associates Africa to conduct the environmental-impact assessment and the public participation process. Once attained, the project construction is expected to start by the end of 2008, with full production in 2010. (Mining Weekly Oct. 26, 2007)
Aflease Gold and Uranium Resources (AFL) announced that it had entered into an agreement in principle with Harmony Gold (HAR) whereby Aflease would acquire the right to mine, process and market all of Harmony's uranium in South Africa.
The resource that is included in the agreement is estimated to consist of 155 million pounds (lbs) of uranium oxide [59,619 t U] of high grade dump and tailings material, which could start producing uranium in about two years. A further 145 million lbs uranium oxide [55,772 t U] low-grade tailings has also been delineated as a future target. The Harmony uranium deposits are situated predominately to the west of Johannesburg and in the Free State province. (Business Day Feb. 3, 2005)
The project was terminated, after drilling results from several of the tailings showed that "the uranium resource fell short of expectations". (Business Report May 26, 2005)
DRDGold mulls uranium extraction at East Rand tailings project: DRDGold is scheduled to complete the building of its flotation and fine-grind circuit before June. If this is successful, it will invest a further R150-million [US$ 17.8 million] in a uranium-recovery add-on, Pretorius tells Mining Weekly Online. "If we achieve the flotation recoveries that we set out to achieve, then the uranium will be the first add-on," Pretorius says. (Mining Weekly Aug. 29, 2012)
DRDGold ponders uranium extraction at East Rand tailings project:
DRDGold will build a R250m [US$ 32.4 million] addition to its Ergo plant to grind tailings going into the plant finely to unlock stubborn gold, a business which CEO Niel Pretorius yesterday described as a "gold factory".
The fine-grind project will bump up gold production at Ergo by 16%-20%. The project will be commissioned in 18 months.
DRDGold could in the next 10 years begin re-treating about 250-million tons of tailings that have already passed through its Crown, City Deep and Knights plants and been placed on huge dumps next to Soccer City in Soweto.
"There's quite a substantial amount of uranium on those dumps as well," Mr Pretorius said. The uranium project is a longer term project and Mr Pretorius played it down. Work done by AngloGold Ashanti , which once owned Ergo, showed uranium recoveries were unlikely to top 13%. Original work on DRDGold's dumps showed the project would need a uranium price north of $140/lb to justify the expense of new infrastructure using technology used in the past. The fine-grind technology will push up the uranium content in concentrate to 200 parts per million. Anything less than that is uneconomical. DRDGold is also looking at a resin-in-pulp technology to extract uranium freed up by the grinding. "Those two events are what bring this project within reach. At uranium prices of $50 a pound it can deliver a by-product credit into our gold circuit. It will soften the unit cost by 5% to 8%," he said. DRDGold could recover 11 tons of uranium a month. (BusinessDay Feb. 15, 2012)
DRDGold puts plans for uranium production at East Rand gold mine on hold: South African junior gold miner DRDGold plans to double gold processing capacity at its Ergo facility to 2.4 million tonnes per month by August 2011, a senior official said on Tuesday (Sep 14). Charles Symons said the company put on hold its plans to produce uranium at the surface operation due to low prices, adding the price would need to rise to $113 a pound for them to do so. (Reuters Sep 14, 2010)
On Jan. 22, 2010, Mintails Ltd announced that it had entered into an agreement with DRDGold Ltd subsidiary, East Rand Proprietary Mines Ltd, to sell its 50% equity interest in Ergo Mining (Pty) Ltd.
On Nov. 26, 2007, Mintails Ltd and DRDGold Ltd announced that they have secured the rights to 1.7 billion t of tailings and slimes dams in the East and Central Rand region of South Africa's Witwatersrand Basin for the recovery of gold, uranium, and sulfuric acid. The existing Brakpan ERGO recovery plant is to be refurbished to achieve an annual design capacity of 150,000 oz of gold, 660,000 lbs U3O8 [254 t U], and 855,000 t of sulfuric acid.
"These reefs also contain significant quantities of uranium with a potential plant feed grade averaging 100ppm. However, this diluted grade is regarded as too low to consider being economically attractive, since the principal reefs contain less than this grade for the majority of the life of the mine. Therefore, the processing of uranium has not been considered appropriate for Bloemhoek, although this conclusion will need to be tested during any future project phase." (Technical Report on the Scoping Study for the Bloemhoek Project, May 2008)
Comment invited on final scoping report for proposed Mooifontein open pit uranium mine and heap leach project:
Paddy's Pad 1183 (Pty) Ltd. (a subsidiary of Batla Minerals SA ), proposes to develop an open-cast uranium mine and associated infrastructure for the processing of uranium ore from the Mooifontein Deposit, which is located approximately 10 line kilometres North West of the town of Edenburg, and approximately 83km South West of Bloemfontein via the N1 Highway. Edenburg is located 3 kilometres West of the N1 Highway.
An open-cast mine of approximately 60 ha is proposed. The life of the mine is expected to be between twenty five and thirty years. The uranium-containing ore will be mined by means of a phased approach whereby low volumes will initially be mined (± 30,000 tons of ore per annum during the third year), increasing to ± 350,000 tons of ore per annum, i.e. an envisaged daily production of 500 to 1000 tons.
On-site processing of the extracted uranium ore is proposed. Such processing will most likely comprise an alkaline heap leaching uranium extraction process.
The comment period ends January 9, 2012.
> Download Mooifontein NEMA/NEM:WA Final Scoping Report (Withers Environmental Consultants)
> See also: Study highlights environmental hazards from abandoned uranium trial mines in the Karoo Uranium Province
Environmentalists sue to clean up liquidated West Rand mines:
Mintails, an Australian-owned company, is being sued, along with the government, for not cleaning up environmental damage at its mines.
The Federation for Sustainable Environment is taking the court action. The group's director, Mariette Liefferink, says waste at the mines, including uranium, has released radiation on nearby communities and squatters.
Mintails was liquidated last year, leaving an unfunded environmental liability.
Meanwhile, the Department of Mineral and Energy Resources is seeking to avoid a lengthy legal process and wants to see the case settled out of court. The department's Sunday Mabaso says a solution needs to be found. (VOA July 30, 2020)
Parliamentary committee looking into Mintails liquidation uncovers illegal activities and scathes government for lax oversight leading to taxpayer having to pay for cleanup of environmental mess left behind:
Directors of the Australian-owned Mintails face possible criminal charges after a parliamentary investigation found Mintails SA (Pty) Ltd is R460-million [US$ 32 million] short on the money it owes to clean up the environment at its mining operations near Krugersdorp.
Sparked by an Oxpeckers investigation into Mintails's failing 1,715ha gold mine, Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources launched its own inquiry, uncovering a slew of illegal activities and lax oversight by the company and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).
Mintails failed to submit audited financial statements for the past five years, mined outside its permits and ignored commitments made in its social and labour plan. The company was not issued licences for its mining rights, although the DMR knew this and allowed mining to continue for six years, the documents show.
After the company entered liquidation in August, about 750 full-time or contract employees are out of work, while 90% of the funds expected to be recovered by the liquidation process will likely end up with an investor in London, according to letters from the business rescue practitioner to the DMR contained in court documents.
The committee's report found the DMR "failed" to manage mine cleanup and that current legislation has "not proven effective in avoiding this situation where the state and the taxpayer still ends up paying for the environmental harm caused by mining".
(Oxpeckers Dec. 12, 2018 - emphasis added)
> View/Download: Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources Final Mintails Report , Nov. 22, 2018
Reclamation cost of Mintails legacy exceeds lodged trust fund 16-fold - parliament's mineral resources committee investigating:
When the spring winds blow over the Mintails operations in Krugersdorp, they lift toxic dust filled with uranium from mine dumps and disperse it on surrounding communities.
The wind is also a reminder that summer is coming, when it is not uncommon for children to drown in the easily accessed mine pits, some 40m deep.
The desiccated Tudor dam on the Mintails property has radioactivity measuring 16 times the regulatory limit, while the water in the Lancaster dam is acutely toxic, says Federation for a Sustainable Environment CEO Mariette Liefferink.
"There is no uncertainty that Mintails is responsible," she says. "Both the nuclear regulator and the department of water affairs found [the pollution] was because of irresponsible mining activities by Mintails."
Last week, members of parliament's mineral resources committee visited the Gauteng department of mineral resources to ask for an explanation and who would pick up the bill for the clean-up costs. Liefferink gave committee members information packs with hundreds of pages of correspondence between the federation and the department over the years imploring it to act. As reported by investigative environmental journalism unit Oxpeckers, Mintails recently applied for provisional liquidation, and this appears to allow it to shirk its R336m [US$ 23.7 million] liability to rehabilitate the environment. The report prompted the parliamentary committee to step in.
Department of mineral resources regional manager for Gauteng Sunday Mabaso says the company has used delaying tactics for years to ride roughshod over the law. Mintails Mining SA, majority owned by Australian listed group Mintails, mined in Krugersdorp without a valid mining licence, a social and labour plan, environmental management plan or the funds required to fulfil its obligations, Mabaso says. Mintails had three mining rights applications granted, but they were never issued as it failed to comply with several conditions. "They couldn't make provision for the environmental liability," Mabaso says.
Now it seems the state will be left with the significant environmental problem to clean up, which it estimates at R460m [US$ 32.5 million] - significantly higher than the amount stated by the closure plan. There is only R28m [US$ 2 million] in the environmental rehabilitation trust fund lodged by the previous mining right holder. (Business Day Sep. 19, 2018)
Liquidation of Mintails leaves US$ 22.4 million environmental mess to clean up:
Mintails Mining South Africa (Pty) Ltd and several related companies have announced their liquidation, throwing into question the environmental rehabilitation of highly-polluting operations near Johannesburg.
Mintails mines and processes gold from a sprawling, 1,715 ha complex of waste piles and open pits in Krugersdorp and has for years been flagged for noncompliance. Its operations are bordered by informal settlements and other communities housing thousands of residents, many of whom have complained of health impacts they blame on radioactive dust and water pollution from Mintails's mines.
Records show the cost to clean up the environment would be about R330-million [US$ 22.4 million], with only R25.6-million [US$ 1.74 million] available, leading observers to fear the situation could deteriorate further as happened at the infamous Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, an abandoned large-scale operation on the Far West Rand.
A case study in South Africa's deeply flawed mine closure system, Mintails teetered on the verge of collapse for years and entered business rescue in October 2015. (Oxpeckers Aug. 8, 2018)
Mintails Ltd seeks bankruptcy protection for South African subsidiaries: On Oct. 16, 2015, Mintails Ltd announced "that the operational performance of several of its South African subsidiaries has again fallen below expectations across all aspects of production". The boards of the South African subsidary companies Mintails Mining (SA) Pty Ltd, Mintails Gold Pty Ltd, and Mintails Randfontein Cluster Pty Ltd have determined that it is necessary to place the companies into Business Rescue, according to Section 128 of the South African Companies Act, which is meant to facilitate the rehabilitation of a company that is fincancially distressed.
Uraniferous slurry spillage at Mintails' West Rand tailings project: The Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) notified the National Nuclear Regulator of an uraniferous slurry spillage upon public land within the West Rand (Krugersdorp). The pipelines are in ownership and control of the mining company, Mintails (Mogale Gold). The spillage was witnessed by a group of community representatives and producers of a documentary film on Saturday morning, the 5th of November, 2011. (FSE Nov. 7, 2011)
Mintails Ltd abandons plan to extract uranium at West Rand tailings project: "Currently the Company has no mining plan or operational intention to extract uranium from its resources." (Mintails Ltd., 2011 Annual Report, Sep. 30, 2011)
Mintails Ltd. submits EIA for West Rand tailings reclamation / reprocessing project:
Mintails Ltd's subsidiary Mogale Gold is applying for a Water Use Licence. The extent of the licence will cover the reclamation activities, as well as the reclamation plant and disposal of tailings into the West Wits Pit.
Mogale Gold is also submitting an EIA for its activities that fall under the ambit of the National Environmental Management Act. The NEMA application will address the following: The storage of hazardous chemicals (including diesel), Water Treatment Plant, Tailings transfer via pipeline from the reclamation sites to the reclamation plant, and Tailings transfer via pipeline from the reclamation plant to the West Wits Pit.
The appointed Environmental Assessment Practitioner is Melisa Lachenicht (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
(July 13, 2009)
Uranium mill tailings retreatment uneconomic at current sulphuric acid prices: The current cost and scarcity of sulphuric acid render uranium recovery from mine dump retreatment operations on the West Rand uneconomic if the grade is less than 180 to 200 parts per million (ppm), says Mintails board member Lloyd Birrell. This means flotation is necessary to upgrade the uranium to an economically leachable level. However, adds Birrell, "uranium residues do not respond well to flotation, and uranium recovery using flotation is marginal". (Mining Weekly Online Dec. 12, 2008)
Contract awarded for solvent extraction plant of Mintails' West Rand tailings recovery project: On July 3, 2008, Mintails Ltd announced that it has awarded a US$ 5.4 million contract to Bateman Litwin N.V. for the design and supply of the Western Rand (WERGO) Uranium Solvent Extraction Plant. The WERGO Gold and Uranium Recovery Plant, is located in the Randfontein area of the Republic of South Africa. The plant will be recovering gold and uranium from existing surface mine tailings dumps, at an initial throughput capacity of 9.6 million tonnes of slimes per annum. Recovery of uranium expected to commence in the 4th Quarter of 2009.
Residents concerned about Witfontein "megatailings" facility to be built with Mintails' West Rand tailings re-mining project: Residents from the Wonderfonteinspruit area have raised concerns about the 300 million t Witfontein megatailings facility proposed by Mintails. The tailings dam is to cover an area of 3 km x 4 km at a height of 115 m. The facility is to receive the tailings from 15 existing tailings dams. (Beeld April 11, 2008)
Uranium resource in West Rand tailings doubled: On July 4, 2007, Mintails Ltd announced that the total resource has been doubled to approx. 21 million lbs U3O8 [8,077 t U], 3.5 million lbs [1,346 t U] of which have been upgraded from the "inferred" to the "indicated" category.
Mintails announces inferred uranium resource for recovery from West Rand gold tailings: On May 17, 2007, Mintails Ltd announced an inferred resource of 10.4 million lbs U3O8 [4000 t U] in the 285 million t of gold tailings owned by the company in the West Rands area.
Sibanye Gold seeking partner for by-product recovery of uranium from tailings reprocessing in West Rand region:
Sibanye Gold will know within months whether it needs to go it alone on a R4bn [US$ 287 million] dump retreatment gold project or if it will secure partners to fund a further R5.6bn [US$ 402 million] to also extract uranium and sulphuric acid from the tailings.
Sibanye, the largest producer of gold in SA, has developed a R9.6bn [US$ 689 million] plan to remine tailings, which is material that comes out of gold processing plants and contains traces of unrecovered gold and other minerals. The total cost of the project is up to R13bn [US$ 933 million], but it will take R9.6bn to get started on four large dumps. The balance of the funding for the 35-year operation would come from revenue generated from the initial investment, said Grant Stuart, vice-president of projects.
Sibanye owns 715-million tonnes of tailings out of an estimated 1.3-billion tonnes of surface material on the gold belt west of Johannesburg. The company will extract 3.5-million ounces of gold and 48-million pounds of uranium [18,500 t U] from its dumps over the life of the project.
Not only would the partners extract dangerous minerals, such as uranium and the sulphides from the tailings, Sibanye would create an enormous 1,350ha tailings deposition site that was not on dolomitic rock - as the existing tailings are and which are contaminating ground water - bringing a much-needed environmental clean-up to the West Rand, Stuart said. There was strong opposition from farmers in the area to the creation of the new tailings dam on agricultural land, he said.
The first phase, assuming Sibanye secures the two partnerships around uranium and sulphuric acid, will tackle four dumps 210-million tonnes of tailings, containing 2.4-million ounces of gold and 53-million pounds of uranium [20,400 t U]. The first phase will deliver up to 100,000oz of gold a year over 18 years and 2.2-million pounds of uranium [850 t U]. The sulphuric acid plant will deliver 5-million tonnes of acid over 18 years. (Business Day Aug. 1, 2016)
Definitive Feasibility Study commissioned for Sibanye Gold's West Rand tailings retreatment project: Tenova Mining & Minerals South Africa has been awarded the definitive feasibility study (DFS) contract for gold miner Sibanye Gold's West Rand tailings retreatment project (WRTRP). The WRTRP involved the construction of a large-scale central processing plant (CPP) for the recovery of gold, uranium and sulphur from the Sibanye tailings deposits and current arisings. The CPP would be located within a 35 km radius of the West Rand tailings resources and would be developed in phases. Once completed, the plant would potentially be able to treat up to four-million tons a month of tailings and current arisings. The recovery of uranium and sulphur would be added as the project progressed, Tenova said. (Mining Weekly July 15, 2014)
Gold One and Gold Fields investigate feasibility of tailings reprocessing in West Rand region: On Sep. 3, 2013, MDM Engineering announced that it has concluded the pre-feasibility study for the Gold One International Limited and Sibanye Gold Limited joint venture West Rand Tailings Retreatment Project.
On Mar. 26, 2012, MDM Engineering Group Limited announced that it has been awarded the scoping study for the Gold One International Limited and Gold Fields Limited joint venture project. Gold One and Gold Fields intend to investigate the economic viability of jointly reclaiming historical tailings deposits and concurrently reprocessing current arisings at a number of sites within the Carletonville, Westonaria and Randfontein areas of the Witwatersrand, west of Johannesburg. Their intent is to extract residual gold, uranium and sulphur, while addressing mine closure in an environmentally sustainable manner and depositing the residues according to acceptable modern deposition practices.
On January, 24, 2012, Gold One International Limited and Gold Fields Limited are announced that they have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to investigate the viability of concurrently reprocessing their combined surface tailings deposits, located on the West Rand region of South Africa's Witwatersrand Basin. Gold One and Gold Fields currently operate mines in the West Rand, a region with a long history of gold and uranium mining.
In terms of the MOU, Gold One and Gold Fields will jointly investigate the feasibility of establishing a Joint Venture into which both parties will contribute surface assets for retreatment. These assets are expected to comprise in excess of 700 million tonnes and represent over 60% of the total tailings material in the region. The parties aim to complete a detailed scoping study by the middle of this year, following which a decision will be taken on whether to progress the study to a feasibility level.
On Apr. 11, 2014, Xtract Resources Plc announced that it will not be proceeding with the acquisition of the Namakwa Uranium Deposit.
On Nov. 20, 2013, Xtract Resources Plc announced that it has signed an Exclusive Agreement with Aardvark Uranium Limited which provides an exclusive 90 day period to conduct the due diligence necessary in advance of the possible acquisition of the Namakwa Surface Uranium deposit in South Africa.
On Oct. 8, 2009, Niger Uranium Ltd announced the termination of the acquisition of the Henkries deposit, as government approval has not been obtained.
On Sep. 1, 2008, Niger Uranium Ltd announced that it is to purchase 74% of Namakwa Uranium (Proprietary) Limited, owner of the Henkries uranium deposit under prospecting license (885/2007PR). The Company is confident that the Henkries Deposit will become South Africa's first open pit uranium mine with an internal target date of late 2011.
Former government official progressing uranium, power project in Springbok Flats:
A complex uranium and power project, which is progressing in the renowned Springbok Flats area of Limpopo province, is being developed by unlisted company HolGoun , headed by former Department of Public Enterprises director-general (DG) and former Bateman CEO Dr Sivi Gounden.
The Springbok Flats orebody has been studied for the last six years in conjunction with the State-owned minerals research enterprise, Mintek, to find ways of separating the uranium, originally thought to be in the coal, from what turns out to be its real host - a shale layer above the coal.
HolGoun Uranium & Power foresees a production capacity of two-million pounds of uranium oxide (U3O8) a year [769 t U/a] and a power generation capacity of 660 MW as a by-product from the process [?!?].
The company's large uranium resource covers 56,862 ha in the Limpopo province, 100 km north of Gauteng. The property has been extensively explored and HolGoun is the holder of an extensive database of 1,800 boreholes, which were drilled on the property by former Gencor company TransNatal. The compliant resource contains 218-million pounds of U3O8 [81,923 t U]. (Mining Weekly Sep. 3, 2013)
Anglogold Ashanti is working on technology to release 80-million pounds U3O8 [30,769 t U] of uranium that is locked up in dumps, as it pushes ahead on major gold projects.
AngloGold has 80-million pounds of uranium and 4-million ounces of gold in its mine dumps, but the low recoveries of about 40% in extracting the metal, combined with uranium price forecasts, mean it has not begun exploiting this resource, he said. "We are in research to significantly up those recoveries. If that works then we've got a substantial portion of uranium we can work on," Mr Lazare told Business Day, pointing out this project is not yet in the scoping study phase. The technology is secret and he was reluctant to talk about it. "This opens the potential to set up joint ventures with other mining companies around you or buy their slimes dumps," he said. (Business Day Sep. 6, 2010)
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