The Western Cape economy is set to experience significant growth as a result of recent foreign investment in the province by Australian-based company Mineral Commodities Ltd (MRC.) The company,
whose objective is to become a significant, unaligned Heavy Mineral producer with near-term production supplying niche markets, began development of its Tormin mineral sands mine project (Tormin) in April this year. It is expected that the project will inject more than R1bn a year into the provincial economy.
Located on the West Coast, about 400km north of Cape Town, Tormin has active beach deposits of heavy minerals zircon, rutile and ilmenite, used in the manufacturing of ceramics and in the production of paint, paper and plastic, respectively.
The project will directly impact on creating employment for unskilled and semi-skilled workers. It has successfully created 51 jobs during the construction phase and, thereafter, up to 100 people during the mine’s existence. “It (the mining employment) will have a ripple effect,” says Andrew Lashbrooke, CEO of MRC as “an additional 400 indirect jobs would result from the expansion of the transport and other feeder services.”
Therefore Tormin is directly aligned with local government objectives outlined in the Western Cape Budget Speech earlier this year. Western Cape Minster of Finance, Mr Alan Winde emphasized their focused efforts on bringing about faster economic growth, higher investment and greater labour absorption.
In 2012, the Western Cape is estimated to have achieved economic growth of 3%, marginally higher than the 2.4% achieved nationally.
The key growth sectors driving its economy remain the secondary and tertiary sectors: finance, real estate and business services sector and the wholesale and retail trade, catering and accommodation sector. The Province continues to lose traction in the primary sectors, creating a challenge for it in terms of creating employment opportunities for those who are unskilled and semi-skilled.
Lashbrooke explains that; “Since commencement in April this year, the project is on schedule with production due to start at the end of the fourth quarter. The mine has an expected capacity of up to five years, although we are confident that the offshore area, which is the source of the minerals and to which MRC has recently been awarded the prospecting rights, will replenish the beach and extend the mine’s life by at least a further five years.”
A study conducted by Stellenbosch University, titled “The Geelwal Karoo heavy mineral deposit a modern day beach placer,” indicated that:
The locally high, total heavy mineral content and the favourable ore to gangue mineral ratio, coupled with the possibility of replenishment style mining, makes this an attractive resource
A prominent headland, forming a J-bay, just south of the source, prevents large-scale dispersion of these sediments by the northward flowing littoral current. The result is an offshore trail of heavy mineral-enriched sand, which is then transported to the beach by wave action. There it is repeatedly sorted and further upgraded to be re-deposited on the beach face during mild weather conditions
The implementation of replenishment mining of this active beach appears to be a realistic possibility. It is, after all, regularly practised by offshore diamond mining in several favourable localities. This alternative could considerably increase the reserves and sustain mining for an extended period
The success of Tormin has been further bolstered through a recently concluded off-take agreement with Wogen Pacific Limited, who will procure 100% of the non-magnetic concentrate (Concentrate) to be produced from Tormin. The Concentrate comprises mainly of the minerals Zircon and Rutile. In addition Wogen have committed to a pre-finance arrangement of US$2m, therefore becoming an investor in the project as well as a customer.
“The agreement is particularly pleasing as it reinforces MRC’s belief that Tormin is a high quality asset that will produce premium quality mineral sands products. In addition it demonstrates our commitment to contributing towards sustainable economic growth in the Western Cape,” concludes Lashbrooke.