Thabazimbi exit by Kumba suits Aquila

AQUILA Resources, a subsidiary of China’s Baosteel, viewed its iron-ore deposit near Thabazimbi, Limpopo, filling a gap left by the closure of Kumba Iron Ore’s mine in the area, Aquila’s head of country in SA, Mike Halliday, said on Thursday.
Aquila has defined the Meletse deposit near Thabazimbi, with a code-compliant resource of 81-million tonnes of ore with an iron content of 61%. Kumba decided to close its 84-year-old Thabazimbi mine after 65-million tonnes of waste from the side walls of its open-pit mine slipped into the void.
The mine, which was nearing the end of its life, was four times more expensive to operate than Kumba’s Northern Cape mines. Thabazimbi supplied ArcerlorMittal SA, the country’s largest steel maker. The gap left by Kumba’s decision would be an opportunity for Aquila, which applied for a mining right over Meletse in July 2013, Mr Halliday said.
“Meletse makes quite a nice fit with ArcelorMittal,” he said.
“We have had discussions with them over the years, but the current situation with Thabazimbi probably makes it more important for us to take a closer look at this. We won’t be able to fill the gap immediately. There’s a construction phase and then a ramp-up, so it will take a few years before we can do so.”
There were local objections to Aquila building an open-cast mine and the company was dealing with those as it tried to secure the mining right.
The mine could produce 2-3-million tonnes of ore a year, said Mr Halliday. Mining would target ore with iron content of 62% or more and 65% of production would be high-grade lump ore, which fetches a premium over fine, sand-like ore.
While it would make sense to use the infrastructure left by Kumba, talks had not yet started, Mr Halliday said. Meletse is 30km from Kumba’s mine.
“But I’m sure parties would be interested in extending the life of that operation for the town’s sake and all the socio-economic benefits. It could be an attractive proposition.”
Kumba CEO Norman Mbazima has said Kumba intends leaving its plant and other surface infrastructure in place for the benefit of other companies in the region after the mine has closed down in the first quarter of next on year.
by Allan Seccombe, 28 August 2015, 06:28 business day live