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Underground blasting imminent at Pres Steyn – Harmony Gold

Journalist: Martin Creamer

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JOHANNESBURG ( – A resumption of underground blasting was imminent at the newly acquired President Steyn mine where 800 people had already been re-employed, Harmony Gold CEO Graham Briggs said on Monday.

Briggs told Mining Weekly Online, in a video interview on the sidelines Harmony's presentation of a 45% December-quarter increase in cash operating profit to R800-million, that blasting could resume as early as this week, in the build up to a full employment complement of 2 500 people over a 24-month period.

He said that the last of the conditions precedent in the acquisition of President Steyn from the liquidated Pamodzi Gold were likely to be met this week.

On the surface, President Steyn's rock dump was already producing gold for Harmony. Current planning would take Harmony to a production level of 150 000 oz/y at President Steyn.

At Doornkop, Harmony's growth asset near Randfontein, the shaft had been sunk down to the South Reef, which was producing improving development values. Stoping was advancing and the infrastructure was being progressively commissioned, accompanied by the mechanised mining of the low-grade Kimberley Reef. More bulk from the South Reef was expected in 18 months.

Harmony was currently mining at a deeper level at Elandsrand, another growth project, which had had a disappointing December quarter.

"We're now mining at a deeper level below the old mine, and that's starting to come through, with us getting out of the old mining areas that are fairly distant from the shaft, and into the new ones" Briggs adds.

Ice plants and a rail conveyor system were being commissioned at Phakisa, another growth project in the Free State, which would be producing at volume in 18 months to two years.

Harmony has had a full quarter of gold production at Hidden Valley in Papua New Guinea, which was "starting to work very well". The company had a target to produce 30% of its gold outside South Africa, where virtually 100% was currently produced.

Harmony production was slightly down at 11 569 kg in the December quarter from 11 714 kg in the September quarter.

Harmony's Target gold mine, also in the Free State, continued to be a combination of mainly mechanised and also narrow-reef stoping.

The thorough eight-month investigation of the Target orebody had been completed and mine planning would take another two months to provide sound production predictions for the future.

Target was one of the Harmony mines where continuous mining was taking place, along with the Kimberley reef in Doornkop, where mining was also mechanised, and at depth at Evander 8 because of the logistics difficulties linked to the decline shaft.

On continuous mining being migrated to more mines, Briggs told Mining Weekly Online that the company was cautious on full calendar operation: "We've got 42 000 people working for us and you need to get the hearts and the minds of those people on your side if you are going to do that."

The growth assets had gone beyond the phase requiring heavy funding.

"We have been putting cash into those assets which are going to great mines in the future," he said.

Most of the South African assets were being funded from cash flow, with the exception of moderate funding having to be raised for the acquisition of President Steyn and for Hidden Valley.

Harmony was unlikely to spend more than R3,4-billion for the financial year to June.

"We're still right on our prediction," Briggs added.

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