The results of an exploration study to expand BCL Mine's resource could be the solution to Selebi-Phikwe's fears of degenerating into a ghost town.
The mine is the town's economic mainstay, but could wind up within three years as its lifespan is directly determined by the commercial viability of nickel and copper left underground. Residents of Selebi-Phikwe have lived with the dim prospects of the mine grinding to a halt in 2013, as originally announced in 2006.
However, using the financial and technical support from government and the European Union (EU), BCL mine embarked on an aggressive exploration programme designed to expand the base metal resource and extend its lifespan.
Last week, the mine's in-house publication, Maitiso, reported that results of the exploration showed a total additional inferred resource of 31.5 million tonnes at 0.66 percent nickel and 0.54 percent copper. Ukwazi Group, a South Africa company engaged to conduct the scoping study, submitted its results to BCL recently and this has enabled the copper and nickel mine's management to consider a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS).
Maitiso quoted BCL mine resource planning divisional manager, Daniel Mahupela as saying the drilling programme revealed potential ore extensions around the existing operational mine shafts.
"The drilling programme completed a total of 230 diamond drill holes (116,770 metres) probing for extensions to existing ore bodies as well
"Orebody extensions have thus been defined and evaluated for one shaft, South East and Phikwe South orebodies as well as a new resource between Selebi and Selebi North mines, referred to as Selebi Central."
Mahupela stated that BCL mine's board has already approved funding for the PFS, with tendering at an advanced stage. It is envisaged that PFS will commence on September 1, 2010 and end on March 31, 2010.
"This technical study will utilise more detailed and accurate information in order to better appreciate the economics of the project and possibly declare a mineable reserve from the additional resources.
The pre-feasibility study will also address critical issues that were identified at the scoping study stage," Mahupela was quoted as saying.
Thus, the PFS will enable BCL to move development of the additional resources forward, including arrangement of the technical and financial pre-requisites.
Successful development of the additional resources will increased the lifespan of the BCL mine, improving Selebi-Phikwe's prospects.
The Selebi-Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) is currently working on several projects designed to propel the town forward, given the fact that copper and nickel resources will inevitably run out