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‘Mud push’ closes city mine

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The cause of the mud push was still being evaluated, as well as the full extent of the impact of the incident

CLOSED: Kimberley's Bultfontein Mine is still closed following a "mud push" that occurred early last month. Spokesperson for Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV), Gert Klopper, confirmed the incident, adding that no injuries were reported. However, according to Klopper, reopening the mine will, "by all indications, be a costly, long and slow process". Picture: Soraya Crowie

BULTFONTEIN Mine has been closed following a recent “mud push”.

Spokesperson for Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV), Gert Klopper, confirmed yesterday that a “mud push” was experienced at the Bultfontein Mine on May 7 at around 10am.

“There were no injuries due to this incident that affected three levels of the mine, and covered 10 machines which are currently being salvaged.”

He added that KEM-JV was issued a Section 54 Stoppage Notice for this work area by the Department of Mineral Resources.

“The stoppage has now been lifted as the conditions were satisfied,” said Klopper.

He said that the cause of the mud push was still being evaluated, as well as the full extent of the impact of the incident.

“While we are mitigating those impacts that we can, it will in all likelihood have a negative impact on the life of the Kimberley Underground operations.

“The reopening of Bultfontein Mine will, by all indications, be a costly, long and slow process. At this time, safety is our first concern, and ensuring the safety of personnel and property enjoys highest priority.”

The KEM-JV is a joint venture between Petra and its partner Ekapa Mining and incorporates the Kimberley Underground mine (mining the Bultfontein, Dutoitspan and Wesselton kimberlite pipes), extensive tailings retreatment programmes and the Central Treatment Plant.

According to the company’s website, the combination of these diamond mining assets in Kimberley has yielded cost synergies and allows for a mine plan to 2035.

“The three mines, Bultfontein, Dutoitspan and Wesselton, were at the heart of South Africa’s early diamond rush in Kimberley in the late 1800s, where the world’s first hard rock diamond deposits were discovered. The Kimberley mines were integral to the economic development of South Africa as their output effectively financed development of the nascent gold industry,” the website states.

“The Kimberley mines were amalgamated into De Beers by 1890. The Dutoitspan pipe was mined as an open pit to a depth of 122 metres and Wesselton and Bultfontein were mined as open pits to a depth of 76 metres. The mines were then converted to chambering (a combination of shrinkage stoping and sub-level caving) as an underground mining method during the period 1890 to 1950.

“In the 1950s underground mining converted to the more efficient and safer block caving methods, the mining method currently still being used to exploit reserves on all three of the mines.

“The mines were closed by De Beers in August 2005 and subsequently Petra operated Kimberley Underground under care and maintenance from September 2007. Petra was given approval to operate the mines under De Beers’ licence, demonstrating the level of confidence the industry leader has in Petra’s overall ability to rehabilitate and operate deep underground diamond mines. This care and maintenance period enabled Petra to complete all the rehabilitation work required in order to ready the operation to recommence production. The acquisition of Kimberley Underground completed in May 2010.

“In December 2015, Petra announced the acquisition of an interest in the remaining Kimberley Mine assets in South Africa from De Beers Consolidated Mines Proprietary Limited, in consortium with Ekapa Mining (Pty) Limited, an established Kimberley-based diamond tailings producer. The Kimberley Mines acquisition comprised of a number of tailings dumps in Kimberley and the high volume Central Treatment Plant, at a cost of R102 million.

“Petra and Ekapa Mining then entered into a joint venture agreement in July 2016, in order to combine their respective operations under one business unit.

“The Kimberley Underground mines have a history of producing large diamonds and fancy yellows, such as the Oppenheimer (253 carats rough). The largest diamond ever recovered at Kimberley Underground was +800 carats and the mine is also the source of the Kimberley Octahedral, at 616 carats, one of the largest uncut diamonds in the world.”