Impala Platinum (Implats) has commissioned the new No. 16 shaft complex at its operations near Rustenburg, South Africa. The complex consists of a 10-m-diameter, 1,675-m-deep main hoisting shaft and a 6.8-m-diameter, 1,440-m-deep ventilation shaft. The seven levels of the main shaft will access both the Merensky and UG2 reef horizons, with the emphasis being on mining the Merensky reef during the initial ramp-up phase.

The No. 16 shaft’s 108-m-tall headgear is the tallest known concrete headgear in the world. The headgear is equipped with two Koepe winders for man/material transport and rock hoisting. The rock winder is designed to hoist 226,500 reef mt/month, while the man winder will be capable of transporting 2,300 employees/hour through the use of a double-deck man cage, each deck with a capacity of 150 people.

The new shaft complex is scheduled to reach full production of 185,000 oz/y of platinum during Implats’ 2018 fiscal year. Shaft life is planned at 25 years. Ore grades over the life of the shaft will average 4.19 g/mt of three platinum group elements plus gold.

The complex, where construction started in October 2004, will enable Implats Rustenburg operation to access new ore reserves and maintain a stable production profile. The large-scale infrastructure and superior grade will also allow Implats to mine at a better overall cost than the current cost average for its Rustenburg operations.

Implats CEO Terence Goodlace said, “The team at the new No. 16 shaft complex can be extremely proud of their safety performance and project milestone achievements. This team has achieved more than 2 million fatality-free shifts, and the shaft has been equipped and commissioned within planned parameters and budget. Preparations for mining operations will start immediately, and first stoping is expected to start in the September 2013 quarter. 

“The new shaft complex ensures that Implats remains in an excellent position to benefit from the long-term PGM market fundamentals, specifically in an industry in which the supply side is being constrained by a lack of investment. This will also secure jobs for 6,500 people who are currently employed at the older-generation Rustenburg shafts.” 

The No. 16 shaft is the second of three fourth-generation shafts being constructed at Implats Rustenburg operations. The first was the No. 20 shaft complex, which was commissioned in 2012. The third, the No. 17 shaft, is still being developed.

Shaft Sinkers Holdings and Read, Swatman & Voigt were the lead contractors for the construction of Implats’ No. 16 shaft complex. 

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