East Manganese, mining investment group Menar’s first manganese asset, operated by Sitatunga Resources and situated in the manganese-rich Kalahari Basin near the town of Hotazel, has exposed its first ore.
Menar diversified its asset base when it broke into the Manganese sector in 2018 with the East Manganese Project. Menar Chairperson, Mpumelelo Mkhabela (MM), discusses this success in a Q&A session with African Mining, Incorporating Mining Mirror (AM).
AM: The breaking news that East Manganese has hit ore is extremely exciting! Has this development fallen within plan?
MM: The development of the mine has largely gone according to schedule and within budget. We slightly revised the projection to expose the Manganese ore from July to August, but we consider the execution to be in line with our plans. This is of course a huge achievement given the fact that it’s our first Manganese operation and it’s part of our diversification strategy.
AM: What has impacted the timing of the exposure? Has Covid-19 affected the project plan or timing at all?
MM: East Manganese is the only mine in South Africa that was launched in the middle of the pandemic as we started mining the box cut in September 2020.
Although we have had a few cases of Covid in our development team, we were able to manage the situation in such a way that it had minimal impact on the overall development of the mine. We subscribe fully to all the Covid protocols applicable in the mining sector.
AM: Have you had any unexpected challenges is the lead up to ore exposure? What were the key take outs of the first phase of the project?
MM: Nothing unexpected. The key lesson learnt was that having experienced mining professionals ensures that plans and deadlines can be adhered to safely and efficiently.
AM: How will this development and the timing thereof impact the plans for the future?
MM: This means that the ramp-up of the operation to the full 30 000 tons a month of run of mine manganese ore will take place, as planned within the first few months of the operation. East Manganese holds approximately a 900 000 tons RoM ore reserve.
AM: This success will bode well for Menar and the surrounding community and economy. What do you think the impact will be?
MM: The success of the East Manganese operation is very important for the Menar Group. As the diversification of the Menar Group’s commodity portfolio is in keeping with our aspirations of becoming a leading South African diversified mining company. We are committed to realising South Africa’s full mining potential, by continuously seeking out new investment opportunities and East Manganese is a clear illustration of this continued commitment.
Aside from invigorating economic activity in the area, the East Manganese project has created 80 direct new jobs. If we multiply this figure by ten (which is the average number of people that are dependent on a single salary earner in South Africa), then around 800 people will directly benefit from this project. The employees have been mainly recruited from local communities. In addition, indirect economic benefits of the operation, even though not quantifiable, will also be far-reaching. We have since inception provided opportunities to local companies with the capability to deliver cost-effectively. We are also engaging with local stakeholders, including the local municipality, to finalise and execute our Social and Labour Plan as required by legislation.