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Contract miner Basil Read Mining is not deterred by the general project slowdown in the mining sector, particularly in South Africa. The company is focused on broadening its horizons across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and is working to secure a milestone long-term contract, writes Laura Cornish.

Basil Read Mining’s (BRM)major contract – Debswana’s Jwaneng Cut-8 mining contract Phase 1 project in Botswana– may have come to an end in 2012, but it will carry the company’s reputation forwards for its achievements on-site.

“I have no doubt that our reputation for managing mining operations on behalf of some of the world’s most prestigious mining clients will carry our name forward in the industry and ensure we continue to secure significant mining contracts going forward, particularly across the SADC region,” explains Basil Read Mining’s MD, Antonie Fourie.

To date, the company has three significant contracts in place, is negotiating to extend a third and is tendering on a seven-year mining contract, which if secured, will represent its longest and largest contract to date.

Botswana

“We are currently approaching year two of a five-year multi-billion rand contract on Debswana’s Cut-8 Phase 2 services project. Through our mining joint venture company MAJWE, established specifically for this project, our contract includes mine scheduling, drill and blast, truck and shovel waste removal and limited ore mining. We will move a staggering 156 million cubic metres of material over the full term of the contract, which commenced in June 2011.”

Fourie says the three-tiered joint venture is working well and adds that the company’s overall process has sped up since its start.

BRM has also more recently expanded its mining portfolio in Botswana outside of diamonds, having secured a mining agreement with Discovery Metals to assist increase production rates at its Boseto copper project with two excavators and ten 100 t trucks on site.

Outside of South Africa, the majority of the company’s work is generated from Botswana mining projects. “Broadly speaking, there are a few opportunities for additional work in Botswana. We are currently assisting with tender pricing and estimates for some of them.”

The company’s drilling business has a well-established footprint in Botswana as well. All of its drill rigs are in operation in the country, including Debswana’s Jwaneng and Orapa mines, both lasting until 2014.

South Africa

The beginning of 2012 saw BRM awarded a three-year opencast mining contract at Northern Cape-based Beeshoek mine, which is co-owned by Assore (through Assmang) and African Rainbow Minerals.

“We were awarded the project in joint venture with Murray & RobertsConcor Mining, and we moved onto site and commenced with mining during the middle of February,” says Fourie.

“The timing could not have been better. With Rössing coming to an end, we were able to relocate the machines from Namibia, which includes four excavators and 16 trucks, to our new site. We have been on site a year now and are making great progress. This project represents a milestone for the company, it’s our first iron ore project and we have made great inroads into understanding the requirements of hard rock applications.” The company has moved 15Mt to date and will move 48 Mt in total.

BRM subsidiary B&E has the percussion drilling contract at De Beers Consolidated Mine’s Venetia mine, which was extended for another three years. The majority of its drill and blast fleet (13 drill rigs and two pit vipers) is based and operational at Venetia.

The company is also in negotiation with the client to extends its load and haul contract at the mine. It was awarded a bench cleaning contract at Venetia, together with a small portion of the waste stripping late in 2011. “The expansion to the pit requires a significant amount of cleaning of the existing benches, and we also need to make sure that it is still secure for the mine to operate in the bottom of the pit as well as prepare it for the underground expansion.”

B&E is tendering on numerous work in the Northern Cape on the smaller fleet of drill rigs. “The company complements our mining business nicely and diversifies our service offering well.”

The way forward

While the company made its turnover and profit targets for 2012, Fourie admits that it needs new contracts to keep the fleet running. “We want to secure longer term contracts of at least five years or more. We always target growth in the year, but expect to spend 2013 getting our house in order to prepare for a project influx in 2014.

“We need to explore the greater SADC region and are working hard to secure the right teams to do the work properly.”

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