By Dineo Phoshoko
An extraordinary amount of work goes into operating a successful mine. Inside Mining speaks to executives from five mine companies with operations across Africa to discuss what makes mining on the continent unique, what the challenges are, and the impact of Covid-19, among others.
What would you say is the biggest lesson Pan African learnt throughout the years?Significant opportunities exist when resources are brought to account in a considered manner, especially in areas that were host to some of the world’s major ore deposits and prime areas thought to be mined out – such as the Witwatersrand Basin and the Barberton Greenstone Belt. Operating in South Africa requires compliance with the law and adherence to strict health and safety standards. Also, applying new techniques, innovative thinking and world-class project execution can produce excellent results. How has the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) dealt with Covid-19? The DMRE has been proactive in engaging with the SA Minerals Council – the industry body that represents the majority of South African mining companies, including Pan African. Together, we have formulated standard operating procedures (SOPs) required to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 at mining operations. The DMRE, through implementing the new SOPs, has allowed certain mining operations and essential services to continue during the national lockdown to ensure that operations can recommence without unnecessary delays once full production is allowed. This initially enabled our surface operations to produce at approximately 70% capacity, which later ramped up to close to 100%. Underground operations have ramped up to 50%, with full production anticipated during June 2020. On the assumption that Pan African can continue surface operations at close to maximum capacity for the remainder of FY 2020 and underground operations continuing at 50% of capacity, consistent with current restrictions, we have revised our annual production guidance from 185 000 oz to 175 000 oz – a reduction of only 5%. What measures has Pan African put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 at the operations? Prior to the announcement of the lockdown regulations, we developed SOPs at all our operations, implementing best practices as provided by the SA Minerals Council and the DMRE, and in line with National Institute for Communicable Diseases guidelines. The actual implementation of the practices includes necessary information campaigns at all operations (posters, video screens, daily safety talks), social distancing, the provision of sanitisers and disinfectants, regular temperature monitoring at entrances to operations, social distancing and isolation, regular disinfecting of workplaces and transport, as well as having the required medical personnel and facilities in place. These practices continue to be enhanced as new information in fighting the pandemic becomes available. How do you see the future for Pan African Resources over the next few years? We will first focus on the pipeline of organic growth opportunities available within our existing mining licence areas and bring these to account. We are finalising an independent review of the feasibility study at our Egoli Project at Evander and are considering the available funding options to fast-track its development. Egoli is an underground mine where the bulk of the infrastructure is already in place (such as the shaft and plant) and will have the capacity to produce about 90 000 oz per year over a period of 10 years. At Barberton, the Royal Sheba project has gold resources of approximately 650 000 oz that can also be extracted from existing infrastructure. The company is always open to look at the acquisition of assets in Africa and the rest of the world, where our management expertise and operational track record will add value for our shareholders. Is there anything you would like to add? We have repositioned the company by curtailing high-cost underground operations and optimised high-margin surface mining operations, from which we generate almost 50% of our production. We also have a pipeline of exciting near-term growth projects. With regard to alleviating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pan African initiated a programme of relief and assistance at the end of April 2020, with the distribution of food and hygiene hampers to its employees, contractors, and vulnerable families in communities in close proximity to our operations. The programme’s roll-out continued throughout May 2020 and approximately 5 400 hampers will have been provided with a total value of almost R5 million during the current phase of the programme. In light of the ongoing pandemic, Pan African will continue its initiatives to assist some of its most vulnerable stakeholders in the months ahead.