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New adits extend life at Kangra

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Roof bolting at Kangra close to Piet Retief in Mpumalanga. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

New adits extend life at Kangra

WhyAfrica visited Menar’s Kangra operation in mid-June amidst increased demand for coal worldwide as sanctions on Russian exports started to bite.

By Leon Louw owner and editor of WhyAfrica

Were it not for South Africa’s infrastructure and rail constraints, the country’s export coal could have filled the global shortages. However, endless problems at South African ports, an inefficient railroad network, deteriorating road infrastructure and wanton destruction, crime, and vandalism, has for all intent and purposes killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Kangra coal mine, located about 45 km from Piet Retief in Mpumalanga, continued mining throughout the turbulence. Despite headwinds, the old dame of coal mining in South Africa still has some kick and continues laying golden eggs, not only for South African coal exports, but for the local community as well.

Mining at Kangra is complicated though. The geology is complex, its deposits are scattered, and the mine is in an environmentally sensitive area. In addition, the local community is vocal and, at times, radical.

Kangra was founded by Graham Beck in 1957. Kangra acquired the mining rights for the Savmore/Maquasa reserve in 1995. They continued mining Maquasa whilst acquiring new licences for the adjacent Kusipongo reserves. Kangra started development of the Kusipongo reserve this year.

Development to extend life of mine

According to Pierre Louw, General Manager at Kangra, developing the Kusipongo reserve could extend the life of mine significantly, which will enable the mine to continue supporting the local communities for another 20 years at least. At the moment, Kangra produces about 1,4 million tons of run of mine energy coal per annum and exports just over 0.8 million tons per annum.

Louw and his team recently developed the Udumo Adit, and is accelerating the development of another, Belgarthen A, which will further extend the life of mine and provide additional job opportunities in a rural area where unemployment is rife.

Udumo consists of an opencast adit which provides access to the underground mining reserves. The company has allocated a capital budget of R153.6-million to establish the adit.

“We will use Udumo and Belgarthen A to access the extensive Kusipongo reserve,” says Louw. First coal at Udumo was cut in February this year and when I ventured underground with Louw and his team, operations were in full swing, with two Continuous Miners cutting coal at a prolific pace.

“Belgarthen A will be a substitute for the Pit C opencast operation which will be mined out by the end of this year. The project will enable the mine to maintain the current production volumes. Our aim is to never have to force any workers to leave the mine, at least not in the next 20 years,” says Louw.

Despite its complexities and challenges, Kangra is running at full tilt, with an extremely competent management team and good quality coal to back them up. Kangra’s washabilities allow it to produce a range of thermal coal products for both international and domestic customers.

About 90% of Kangra’s coal is exported through Richards Bay Coal Terminal for use by international power producers. “Kangra’s consistent quality and secure production make it highly a sought-after supplier to key markets. Kangra’s location, being close to Richards Bay, positions it well for both exports and to service the local South African markets,” says Louw.

“With a mixture of both low and high volatility coal, the Kusipongo reserve will be mined from three sections using a board and pillar method. Kangra is targeting a production rate of 1.44 million tons per annum from the underground once Belgarthen A is operational,” Louw explains.

Once mined from the various adits, the coal is trucked/conveyed to the Maquasa East adit. From here, it is washed and trucked to the Panbult Rail Siding, which is about 30km from the mine where it will be railed to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal.

Developing the Udumo shaft

The development of the Udumo adit was successfully implemented and completed by Kangra’s management and operational teams. According to Louw the project was well within budget and by developing the shaft, the mine achieved its main goal of moving out of H block into the Udumo area without having to reduce employee numbers.

“At Udumo, the groundwork was done upfront. We had to develop the power and water infrastructure and we had to address water license requirements. For example, the access to the shafts was a concern, so we had to build a bridge over the wetland and make sure that the access area was established as per requirement from the Department of Water Affairs,” says Louw.

The adit was sunk by in-house contractors Menar Mining Services (MMS). They developed the shaft to about 36m on the deep end and close to 16m on the shallow end.

“Once the adit was in place, we had to ensure that we manage the water within the adit. Sumps had to be installed on both sides of the pit and water had to be pumped out of the pit into our current water reticulation system,” explains Louw.

Importance of water management

Currently Kangra only uses about 15% of the water that it is authorised to use per annum. The mine utilises a closed water reticulation system, which ensures that no contaminated water is released from the site, and instead is channelled and collected in pollution control dams (PCDs). This water is in turn used for dust suppression within the mine’s boundary and in the processing plant. Potable water is only used for consumption by employees.

The Menar Group has a team of environmental specialists who form an integral part of the project’s team, and who are responsible for developing mines and ensuring compliance at its current operations.

The environmental specialists are involved from conception to execution of all mining projects to make sure all environmental concerns are considered at every stage. Kangra’s operations are fully licensed, each with an approved Environmental Management Programme and Water Use License, which are audited internally and externally annually.

Monitoring of Kangra sites is conducted by independent specialists and samples are analysed in South African National Standards (SANS) accredited laboratories. Furthermore, Kangra’s Savmore/Maquasa established operations as well as its new and emerging operations Pit C and Udumo operations have all respectively received Water Use Licences (WUL), issued by the Department of Water and Sanitation in terms of the National Water Act. WULs come with very strict legal requirements that employees and contractors are contractually and legally bound to follow at all times.

Flow meters are installed at all locations where water is extracted or moved between facilities at operations. The volumes are recorded to, firstly, measure compliance with the WUL conditions and, secondly, monitor the company in terms of its water use.

Inflow from ground and rainwater into the opencast pits is also used to supplement the water requirements at the company’s operations, be it for dust suppression or processing requirements. The inflow water is pumped to the PCDs. This reduces the need to source water from outside the mine boundary and thus aids in preserving surrounding water resources. Kangra has in place a comprehensive water stewardship programme aimed at ensuring efficient water use through the avoidance of water wastage. Such as monitoring tap and pipe leaks, which can waste many litres of water unnecessarily.

Kangra rehabilitated one of its old mining areas, Block F.  The mine is currently carrying out annual assessments of the area to ensure there is no subsidence.

According to Louw the mine is committed to restoring the land to a state similar to what it was before mining started on it. “We have appointed various engineering and environmental consultants to do the rehabilitation designs on old Kangra decommissioned areas that were left unrehabilitated by the previous owners,” says Louw.

Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.        

WhyAfrica provides you with business intelligence that matters. Africa is our business, and we want it to be yours too. To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletter or digital magazine, and for more news on Africa, visit the website at www.whyafrica.co.za or send a direct message. WhyAfrica launched its first ever digital magazine in November 2021. The company will undertake a road trip through South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana in June and July 2022. If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising opportunities, please contact me at leon@whyafrica.co.za. We have a wide range of different packages and combo deals to give your company the greatest exposure to a rapidly growing, African readership.  

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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management