Gamsberg, Vedanta Zinc International's flagship zinc project, located about 30km from the operations of Black Mountain Mining at Aggeneys, is being developed as an open pit mine with a dedicated plant, on one of the largest known, unexploited zinc ore bodies in the world, which was discovered more than 40 years ago.
While Gamsberg's grade is relatively low – between 6 and 6.5% – its current reserve and resource is 214 million tonnes, and the life of mine is estimated at 30 years. A substantial portion of the ore body has yet to be drilled to prove additional reserves and resources.
The first blast for Phase 1 took place in July 2015 and work to establish the V-cut and access ramp, and pre-stripping is at a well advanced stage. In the first phase of the project, production of ore will be 4Mtpa, and of zinc concentrate, 250 000tpa.
The capital cost of Phase 1, through a range of innovative adjustments made by the project team in order to keep Gamsberg's development on track when the zinc price weakened, has been reduced by US$200 million – from US$600 million to US$400 million.
Phase 1 will create 1 200 to 1500 jobs in the construction phase and between 850 and 900 jobs once in production.
With first production expected by mid-2018, Gamsberg will be well positioned to leverage the zinc price, the current buoyancy of which is expected to continue due to a shortfall in zinc supply arising from recent zinc mine closures, others nearing the end of their productive lives, few new mines coming on stream and exploration cutbacks.
It is envisaged that at least a portion of Gamsberg's zinc in concentrate production will be trucked to the Skorpion Refinery in Namibia for refining. While the Skorpion refinery can manage the manganese content of Gamsberg's concentrate, it needs to be configured to refine sulphide concentrate of Gamsberg. Gamsberg and Skorpion, linked in this way, would create a substantia southern African integrated zinc-producing complex.
An interesting aspect of Gamsberg is that it is being developed in a designated biodiversity "hotspot" – one of seven in South Africa and one of just 35 in the world. This has required extensive engagement with key stakeholders – government, NGOs, landowners, etc. – which has resulted in a unique biodiversity offset agreement. We are working close in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's oldest and largest environmental organisation, to ensure effective implementation of the agreement.
Capex reduced by US$200 million to US$400 million mainly on engineering improvements and renegotiations