Boikarabelo Coal Mine

Boikarabelo – which means ‘to be responsible’ in the local language, Sesotho – will be a world-class, low-cost, open-cut coal mine in the Limpopo province’s Waterberg coalfield. The Waterberg is host to approximately 40% of South Africa’s known coal resources.

The Boikarabelo Coal Resource stands at 995Mt. Annual production is planned at 6Mt of high-quality product coal, which will supply local and global customers.

Boikarabelo will be connected to an existing rail system that will allow access to domestic markets and the coal terminals of Richards Bay for export shipments by means of a 44km rail loop and link, which will be constructed.

Production profile

Annual ROM production: 15.12 million tonnes
Annual export product: 3.6 million tonnes (25.7 MJ/kg on an Air Dried basis)
Annual domestic product: 2.4 million tonnes (19.5 MJ/kg on an Air Dried basis)
Overall yield: 43.3%

Overburden diagram

It has a 3.452 billion tonne resource with probable reserves of 267.1 million tonnes on 25% of the tenements under management (For more information, please see the 2017 Coal Resources and Coal Reserves Statement) and delineated to date.

Export and domestic offtake contracts are in place for the mine’s full production for its first seven years and for a significant proportion for the following
30 years.

The Boikarabelo coal seam is between 20 and 30 metres below the surface with an overburden strip ratio of 0.97:1, enabling low-cost and open-cut mining. The seam is between 120 and 130 metres thick with zones of varying quality thermal and soft coking coal.

Overburden graph

The mine design has been completed and focuses on minimising initial capital and operating cost through clever and efficient pit design and planning. The mining operation is planned as an open-pit terrace mining operation on multiple benches linked to a common ramp.

The latest design allows for the box-cut to be opened to the base of coal and, once opened, the mine direction will change in order to open multiple mining benches. The multiple mining benches will provide access to the complete succession of coal horizons, increasing flexibility, and will result in improved plant feed quality control and equipment utilisation.

This design will reduce waste material volume in the early years and thus significantly reduce the out-of-pit waste volume. It therefore requires a much smaller dump footprint, reduced rehabilitation liability, shorter haul distances and thus a smaller fleet of equipment. On completion of the box-cut, the waste material and low-grade product from the mining operations, as well as the coal handling and processing plant (CHPP) rejects will be dumped in-pit to also reduce the operating cost significantly.

Various scenarios were run in order to optimise the equipment size, mining bench heights, plant feed, ROM coal quality and operating costs in order to find optimal combinations. This strategy led to aggregation of multiple seams and allows for bulk mining from multiple benches with larger equipment that runs more cost-effectively.

We have adopted a low-risk execution strategy, which involves the appointment of a limited number of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors with good track records and strong balance sheets – which affords the right of recourse in the event of delay or failure. The appointed EPC contractors will be managed by a competent and experienced owner’s team.

In order to expand the economic base of the Boikarabelo project, a feasibility study is being fast-tracked in order to construct a 300MW independent mine-mouth power station to operate as an approved independent power producer (IPP). Environmental and land use approvals have been obtained for this IPP, which will provide significant optionality for domestic coal production and an additional revenue stream.

The project would also transit Resgen from the coal sector to the energy sector. Supply agreements with both the public and private sectors are being explored.