The first platinum mining activity on the Boschkoppie Farm, where BRPM is located, started with drilling in 1950. Mining operations on the Merensky Reef started in the early 1950s, but were abandoned in 1956. Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Co Ltd (JCI) undertook additional exploration campaigns at Boschkoppie in 1956 and intersected UG2 mineralisation that year. Then between 1993 and 1996, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) drilled 57 boreholes, and between 1997 and 2001 they drilled more than 120 boreholes to delineate the UG2 ore body for opencast mining. Then from 2001 onwards, their exploration campaigns focused on the Merensky Reef at Boschkoppie.

In 2002, Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH) and Amplats established a 50:50 joint venture and in January 2010 RBH acquired a 67% interest in the JV and took over operational control through RBPlat.

  Our BRPM operation

In November 1997 construction at BRPM began under the management of Anglo American Platinum. The capital cost was R1.4 billion. The first opencast blast took place in January 1998, with underground mining starting in December 1998 and the concentrator plant was commissioned in 1999. The mine was 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 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. The first concentrate was produced in December 1999.

BRPM has 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 now also mines its UG2 reserves.

  North shaft chairlift project

The BRPM Phase II replacement project to extend shaft infrastructure by an additional five levels at both North and South shafts (Level 6 to Level 10), which started in 2004, was completed in August 2011 at North shaft and in September 2012 at South shaft. At a total project cost of R2.3 billion the project was R110 million under budget.

The North shaft chairlift project, which will provide employees with a safer method of transportation into the mine than the previous belt riding option, included the development and installation of a chairlift from surface to 5 level.

Work on the project, which began in June 2011, was completed in October 2014 and the chairlift was operationally commissioned in November 2014. Capital expenditure on the project ended within the approved project budget at completion.

  Phase III North shaft replacement project

This project, which extends the life of Merensky at BRPM’s North shaft by extending the North shaft Merensky decline system and associated infrastructure from 10 level to the mine boundary at 15 level, is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

As at the end of December 2015, the project was 88% complete against a plan of 81% with development 1 158m or 10 months ahead of schedule at year-end. This has allowed us to divert some of our most experienced development resources to the Styldrift I development programme and defer the construction of the last two levels (14 and 15 levels) into 2017, reducing capital expenditure in 2016. The deferment will have no impact on the handover dates for those levels or the mine extraction plan as project completion remains set for 2017 as per the project schedule.

The project remains below budget, with expenditure for 2015 amounting to R203 million and R992 million for the project in total as at the end of December 2015.