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Assmang: Khumani Mine November 09 www. bus- ex. com 37 These levels place Assmang, which is jointly owned by African Rainbow Minerals and Assore, as a medium sized player in the global market, behind the really big mining companies like BHP Billiton. Nevertheless, it is an important player and the second largest iron ore producer in South Africa. The domestic market takes only a small proportion of its output; 40 per cent of what it exports annually through the port of Saldanha is shipped to China, with Korea, Japan and Europe sharing the remainder. Slowing consumer demand and large stockpiles have reportedly caused a slump in China's steel industry, and that may have affected the large bulk mining companies, but they are still importing high- quality ore, says Grobbelaar. " We have not seen any reduction in volumes whatsoever, although there has been an impact on price. I am confident that we are going to be able to continue selling our ore." The problem then is not a marketing one, but rather, one of production. The Beeshoek iron ore mine is reaching the end of its economic life and will not be able to sustain its current production level of six million tonnes per year, so three years ago Assmang decided to develop another property it held, some 60 miles to the north of Beeshoek. This consists of three former farms known as Bruce, King and Mokaning, to which a further parcel of land, Parsons, was added to accommodate the crushing, screening and stockpiling operations. The Bruce property shares a boundary with a competing company's operations- the Sishen mine owned by Kumba Mining- so a complex agreement needed to be reached to avoid conflict and to enable both parties to exploit the boundary pillar. But developing these assets made every kind of sense, says Grobbelaar. " The ore at Khumani is close to the surface, and it is a very high grade deposit, with a stripping ratio of 1.7 to 1." This means 10 units of iron ore for every 17 units of material excavated, and the iron ore, a high proportion of which is described as ' lumpy', in turn yields 66 per cent iron. The Khumani resources are amongst the best iron ore resources in South Africa in terms of quality and quantity- it's estimated that the reserves will keep the mine going for more than 25 years at an annual extraction rate of 16 million tonnes. The R6 billion development came into production in 2006 and is now producing 10 million tonnes of ore annually. It was conceived as a greenfield development but Grobbelaar points out that, undeveloped as it was, it had the advantage of having the most important infrastructure already in place. It is close to the 860- kilometre Sishen- Saldanha railway line that runs to the port of Saldanha Bay on South Africa's West Coast, from where the iron ore is

38 www. bus- ex. com November 09 currently exported. That takes care of transportation; the other thing needed for an operation like this is a reliable water supply, which can be a problem in such regions. The development has access to water piped from the Vaal River under the Vaal Gamagara water scheme, so that base is covered too. But the Vaal is under stress, says Grobbelaar. " The water management system is part of the state- of- the- art design of this plant. We needed to optimise the available water, so rather than flushing used water into a sludge dam for evaporation we implemented a paste deposition system. This recovers the maximum amount of water from the ore washing process and thickens it- more than 85 percent of that we can re- use." Further leading edge techniques can be found in the beneficiation process that was implemented, he continues. This is a technical term for adding value at Established in South Africa in 1952, Morris Material Handling SA ( Pty) Ltd is South Africa's leading supplier of overhead lifting equipment. Based in Benoni, Morris has developed a professional reputation in the design, manufacture and installation of light, medium and heavy duty process cranes designed specifically for the African market. Backed by the largest service organisation with branches located throughout the African continent, Morris is the ideal partner for the mining, smelting, container handling, railway and engineering sectors and is able to bring specific African experience to your materials handling solutions. See our ad and contact us for assistance. Morris Material Handling SA ( Pty) Ltd