While the presence of the Merensky Reef on the Boschkoppie Farm was known from the 1920s, drilling only started in 1950, with 20 boreholes being drilled. Mining operations on the Merensky Reef started in the early 1950s, but were abandoned in 1956. During that year, Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Co. Ltd (JCI) undertook additional exploration campaigns at Boschkoppie and intersected UG2 mineralisation in the same year. Between 1993 and 1996, significant drilling campaigns were undertaken, with 57 boreholes drilled, and between 1997 and 2001, during which period more than 120 boreholes were drilled to delineate the UG2 orebody for opencast mining. From 2001 onwards, exploration campaigns focused on the Merensky Reef at Boschkoppie and, in 2002, a joint venture (JV) drilling programme (under the joint direction of Royal Bafoken Holdings (RBH) and Anglo American Platinum) started and has continued to date. In 2008 and 2009, drilling programmes focused predominantly on North Shaft Phase III.
BRPM mining complex is accessible via a well-developed and tarred road infrastructure. The towns of Boshoek and Phokeng lie approximately 5km and 17km respectively to the south of the mine, along the R565 tar road, which links Rustenburg with Sun City. A railway line passes through the property, with a railway siding at Boshoek.
Bulk water is supplied by Magalies Water and the mine has sufficient installed power supply to conduct all mining and processing operations.
In November 1997 construction of BRPM commenced at a capital cost of R1.4 billion under the management of Anglo American Platinum. The first opencast blast took place in January 1998, with underground mining commencing in December 1998 with the mine scheduled to reach full production in January 2002, after a 15-month build-up period. This date was brought forward by the exploitation of some 2.2 million tonnes of surface material on Boschkoppie from the Merensky and UG2 opencast mines. The Merensky opencast mine was operational from December 1998 to October 2002, and the UG2 opencast mine was operational from January 2000 to April 2004. First concentrate was produced from the oxidised ores in December 1999.
BRPM comprises the twin decline shaft complexes – the North and South shafts (as well as a smaller, now defunct South-D shaft, in the south of the property). Historically, the operation has focused exclusively on the mining of the Merensky Reef, but currently access development is focusing on the opening up of UG2 reserves.
The BRPM Phase II Project started in 2004 to extend shaft infrastructure by an additional five levels at both North and South shafts (Level 6 to Level 10). The Phase II Project was completed in August 2011 at North shaft and in September 2012 at South shaft. The project was R110 million under budget, with a total project cost of R2.3 billion. Phase III, on which capital construction began in November 2010, will focus exclusively on North shaft, from Level 11 to Level 15, and will address future Merensky Reef replacement. Phase III is expected to reach completion in the third quarter of 2017 with the actual project expenditure to date of R410 million.The total development of the project to date is 544 meters ahead of schedule, with 3,987 meters completed against a development plan of 3,443 meters. During the year the first level of Phase III (level11) was handed over to operations for lateral development. The overall project is presently 40% complete.
The Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine (BRPM) concentrator receives ore from the two decline shafts, and has a design capacity of 200,000 tonnes per month. The plant predominantly treats Merensky ore. It operates on a 24hr, 365 day basis.
The process follows a traditional MF2 process and includes a conventional three stage crushing process prior to milling and flotation.
The flotation process produces a platinum rich concentrate which is collected and sold as a final product of BRPM for further processing and refining. The process undertaken by the concentrator incorporates such operational excellence tools such as TQM, Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma into an integrated solution.
The concentrator can be described as a robust maintenance intensive environment which makes the ability to maximize plant availability a key operational gearing tactic.In essence the concentrator produces 2.7 tonnes of saleable product from every 100 tonnes of virgin rock processed. Revenue from production through the BRPM concentrator decreased by 4.4% from R2 846.6 million in 2011 to R2 720.9 million in 2012 due to a 5.1% reduction in ounces produced
R380 million had been allocated to upgrade the capacity of our existing BRPM concentrator from a 200,000 tonnes a month to a 230,000 tonnes a month dual processing plant, which was scheduled for completion by the end of 2013. We deferred R300 million of this upgrade, but retained R80 million in our budget to optimise the concentratorís performance, through the construction of a Merensky/ UG2 blending facility.
In 2012 the main focus for our concentrator has been to find the optimal processing solution for the increasing UG2 volumes given the deferment of the concentrator upgrade project and involves manipulating our recovery process, to maximise the recovery potential of the ore blend into the concentrator. This was achieved by introducing a blending plant into the concentrator circuit. The new blending plant reduces variability in the Merensky and UG2 blend and makes the Merensky circuit hydraulically capable of treating the UG2 to which it is exposed.