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Burnstone is located in the South Rand Goldfield of the Witwatersrand Basin near the town of Balfour, approximately 75km east of Johannesburg in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa.

Sibanye acquired the Burnstone assets in April 2014, comprising two shaft complexes, namely the surface portal and mechanised vehicle access decline and the vertical shaft (shaft bottom at 495m below surface), as well as a 125,000tpm gold processing plant, the tailings storage facility and surface infrastructure to support a producing operation, albeit with areas still to be constructed.

Burnstone had previously produced approximately 38,000oz of gold before being placed on care and maintenance in mid-2012.

The Burnstone project feasibility study was approved by the Board for project execution in November 2015. The project plan includes a five-year build-up to steady-state production by 2021, then averaging 120,000oz annually for nine years until the end of 2029. Thereafter a 10-year period of decreasing but profitable production supports an initial 26-year life-of-mine (LoM) plan, yielding 2.05Moz of gold production from the feasibility resource of 5.7Moz.

This initial LoM plan was limited to approximately 60% of the total Burnstone resource of 8.9Moz as the mine design and schedule in the feasibility study were limited to mineable reserves within a 3km radius of the shaft infrastructure. During the steady-state production period, the potential of the 3.2Moz of resource not included in this base LoM plan will be determined.

First gold production is planned in the second half of 2018 when sufficient on-reef development has been stockpiled (2.5 years) to start up the metallurgical plant, albeit at reduced milling capacity. The full production run rate is planned to be achieved in 2021 and the total LoM project capital is estimated at R1,852 million (in 2015 terms).

In 2015, concurrent with completing the feasibility study, R272 million was spent on completing the mine-dewatering and permanent pumping infrastructure, re-aligning the shaft steelwork for rock hoisting and completing approximately 2km of development to begin accessing the orebody. Development was completed using existing mechanised development machines, which were refurbished before being put back into production. Three development fleets of equipment were in production by the end of 2016.

In 2016, R531 million was spent in the first full year of the feasibility study build-up when expenditure provided for:

  • 4,950m of development (in the fourth quarter, with all development fleets in production, 1,915m of the planned 2,100m was produced and the team’s performance has steadily improved)
  • mine infrastructure running costs
  • planned project capital infrastructure
  • procurement of additional mechanised mining fleets and ancillary support vehicles

The budget for 2017 has been revised to R400 million – compared with an initial budget of R672 million – to deliver 6,000m of access development (this is a reduction from the feasibility study’s 8,300m of access development) and to run the mine in support of this revised plan and defer certain project infrastructure.

For more information:
Burnstone project: Feasibility study and LoM plan by Richard Stewart, Executive Vice President: Business Development, 28 July 2016