Quarter marked by Benga progress, Zululand fatality

RIVERSDALE Mining’s December quarter was marked by milestones at the Benga project and a fatal underground combustion accident at its Zululand anthracite colliery in South Africa.
Quarter marked by Benga progress, Zululand fatality Quarter marked by Benga progress, Zululand fatality Quarter marked by Benga progress, Zululand fatality Quarter marked by Benga progress, Zululand fatality Quarter marked by Benga progress, Zululand fatality

Courtesy Riversdale.

Blair Price

One miner was killed and two others were injured in an underground methane deflagration accident.

The mine’s executives are working with local authorities to determine the exact cause of the ignition.

The company is implementing subsequent safety recommendations and will introduce a behaviour-based safety initiative.

The accident and related safety measures saw raw coal production fall 13% from the September quarter to 184,524 tonnes, though December quarter output was still 10% up year-on-year.

The mine also faced faults, dykes and other geological challenges with the Deep E shaft, which came across a large amount of water.

Riversdale considers the water to be an uncommon phenomenon at the colliery. Teams have been forced to move into alternative mining areas while the operation works to create sufficient pit room.

But the company noted the low-seam Voest continuous miner had been producing exceptionally well since its recent introduction.

Development of the Ngwabe block at the colliery is on track, with Riversdale noting the ground conditions are favourable and the development rate is expected to hit 100 metres per month.

Meanwhile, Riversdale and joint venture partner Tata Steel are starting to place orders for equipment with long lead times while awaiting final regulatory approvals for the Benga coking coal project in Mozambique.

The open cut project is initially targeting 5.3 million tonnes per annum of run-of-mine coal to produce 1.7Mtpa of hard coking coal and 300,000tpa of export thermal coal from 2011.

Since the $US270 million development was approved recently, the JV has signed a procurement contract with Sedgman for the coal handling and preparation plant, and announced the development of the Benga power plant.

Talks have begun over access to the Sena railway line and Berth 8 at Beira port, and the JV is looking at contracting out mining operations.

“Tenders have been received from three companies for the contract mining of coal and overburden at Benga over the initial five years from 2010 to 2014,” Riversdale said.

“Proposals are being evaluated. It is intended to let this tender in the first quarter of 2010.”

A feasibility study to barge coal down the Zambezi River has begun.

A second-stage ramp-up at Benga will target 10.6Mtpa ROM coal by 2014 and sufficient demand could pave the way for a final expansion to 20Mtpa.

For exploration, a total of 33 holes were drilled at the Tete, Changara and Cahora Bassa leases in Mozambique, covering 8873m.

Riversdale ended 2009 with a cash position of $A258 million.

Shares in the company closed down 12c to $7.45 on Friday.