Gamsberg Zinc, VZI’s flagship project, forms part of the Black Mountain Mining operations and is located about 30km from the BMM base at Aggeneys in South Africa’s Northern Cape province.
Discovered more than 40 years ago and held undeveloped in the asset portfolios of various mining companies, it was acquired from Anglo American by the Vedanta group in 2011. Its development is well timed to feed into a global supply-demand gap and as part of Vedanta’s commitment to the development of the region.
Gamsberg will exploit one of the largest, known, undeveloped zinc ore bodies in the world and will comprise an open pit mine, with a dedicated processing plant.
The project’s current reserve and resource is 214Mt, with a grade of between 6 and 6.5%, and has a life-of-mine (LOM) estimated at 30 years.
In Phase 1, which has a LOM of 13 years, 4Mtpa of ore will be produced from Gamsberg’s open pit and 250,000tpa of zinc-in-concentrate from its concentrator plant. First production is expected by mid-2018, with full ramp up expected to be reached in nine to 12 months thereafter.
From the first blast for Phase 1 in July 2015, pre-start mining advanced according to schedule. Completion in April 2017 of an access ramp – essential for waste pre-stripping to access the ore body for bulk mining – was a significant milestone. By June 2017, full waste pre-stripping rate of 3.5Mtpm had been achieved and is expected to continue at this rate until the start of ore production in mid-2018. In the course of prestart mining and pre-stripping, more than 25Mt of waste have been moved; by the start of production, the total will be 65-70Mt.
Construction of the concentrator plant and vital infrastructure for the overall project –
including a power line, water pipeline and a high density polyethylene (HDPE)-lined tailings dam – has begun and is expected to peak in the last quarter of 2017.
The Gamsberg team was able to robustly review the capital cost of Phase 1 and reduce it from US$600 million to US$400 million. These measures enhanced Gamsberg’s viability considerably during the period when the zinc price weakened.
Depending on market conditions, Phase 2 of Gamsberg could start as early as completion of Phase 1. It is envisaged that at least a portion of Gamsberg’s zinc-in-concentrate production will be trucked to the Skorpion Zinc refinery in Namibia for refining. While the Skorpion Refinery is currently configured to refine Skorpion’s oxide ore, this refinery will be converted to refine sulphide concentrate from Gamsberg once Skorpion’s own oxide reserves are exhausted. At some point in the future, depending on market conditions and other factors, Gamsberg may warrant its own refinery.
Around 1,500 people will be employed by ZI and business partners at the peak of Gamsberg’s construction. Between 850 and 900 people will be employed permanently, once Gamsberg is in production. Recruitment of local people – in the first instance from local communities and then from the Northern Cape – is an obligation for all of the business partners working on Gamsberg and a priority for Zinc International itself. Of the ~1,100 people already deployed on the project, more than half are from local communities.
A critical feature of Gamsberg’s development is its approach to biodiversity. The Project is being developed in the ecologically sensitive Succulent Karoo Biome, a designated biodiversity "hotspot" and one of just 35 considered “biodiversity hotspots” in the world. This has required extensive engagement with key stakeholders – government, NGOs, landowners, – which has resulted in a unique biodiversity offset agreement. The project team is working close in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's oldest and largest environmental organisation and in compliance with the Vedanta Sustainable Development Framework to ensure effective implementation of the agreement.
Community development initiatives are prioritised according to local needs and include:
These corporate social responsibility activities are included in the project’s business plans and appropriate implementation is carefully considered in collaboration with associates, government
bodies and NGOs. Progress and performance are measured by third-party reviews and reported regularly to all stakeholders.