Kropz is an explorer; mine developer and miner of fertilizer feed minerals, primarily phosphates. Kropz is in the process of vertically integrating its business in order to produce a range of plant nutrient fertilizer products for the sub-Saharan African market.
The use of the green heart in the Kropz logo represents Kropz’s constant commitment to its caring approach towards its people and communities, as well as its consideration for the environments in which it operates.
Kropz is the majority shareholder, major funder and debt provider for the development of the Elandsfontein phosphate project. Kropz’s commitment to the Elandsfontein project is driven by its goal to access world-class fertilizer feedstock materials, of which phosphate is the most sought after.
The Kropz management team, who are developing the Elandsfontein project, are committed to world-class environmental standards across every aspect of the project. To this end they have embraced the goal of Elandsfontein becoming the world’s first truly green mining operation.
Elandsfontein is South Africa’s largest known sedimentary phosphate deposit, and the second largest after the igneous Phalaborwa deposit.
Phosphates are a naturally occurring salt form of phosphorus. Plants need phosphorus in order to grow. Phosphate fertilizers help to increase crop yields so that more food can be produced from less land.
Kropz is investing R1.35 billion into the development of the Elandsfontein project, and every effort is being made to maximise benefits directly to local businesses in the Saldanha Bay Municipality.
Phosphate demand is entirely dependent on the need for food. Food demand is driven by population growth and urbanisation. South Africa currently imports approximately 60% of its fertilizer needs, making access to phosphate critically important to South Africa’s future food security.
The Elandsfontein deposit is approximately 5 million years old. Initially the sea levels were much higher, and Elandsfontein was a protected coastal embayment. The phosphate deposit is a result of the marine animal remains that inhabited the protected coastal waters.
The phosphates at Elandsfontein occur in the form of apatite grains that are found between the sand (silica) particles.
Samancor previously owned and operated the old Chemphos Mine, where the West Coast Fossil Park is currently situated. Samancor knew of the Elandsfontein deposit, and were planning to mine it once the resources at Langebaanweg were depleted in the mid 1980’s. However, due to changes in the company’s strategy, and depressed phosphate prices at the time, they chose not to develop the resource.
Strip mining, as it is planned at Elandsfontein, is an open cast mining method where the mining takes place in 50m wide strips. This method has been selected because it allows the early commencement of rehabilitation. The first rehabilitation will start during the third year of operation.
This also means that a large open pit will never be exposed, only small sections at a time, lessening dust creation and the mining footprint.
Approximately R25 million has been spent on various independent and third party specialist studies on Elandsfontein to address all concerns raised by interested and affected parties. The Elandsfontein project’s major international lenders and important local investors have been satisfied in this regard. To this extent the Elandsfontein project complies with Equator Principles, which exceeds South African social and environmental legal standards. Due diligence processes were conducted by leading legal and consulting firms in South Africa, and have found that legislative requirements have been complied with.
The Elandsfontein mine is compliant with legislation pertaining to mining and environmental matters. It is awaiting the allocation of a water use license, which is expected in October 2016. Upon a request by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), Elandsfontein is in the process of upgrading its Environmental Management Programme (EMPr) to accommodate the optimisation in the design since the original EMPr submission.
The mine is on the Elandsfontein farm, which is privately owned. The total farm property covers almost 5,000ha, but the mining area will be just over 500ha in total and will be fenced off. The area of the West Coast National Park adjacent to the mine is a remote wilderness area, which is inaccessible to the public.
There are no declared Critical Biodiversity Areas (CBAs) in the Western Cape. Kropz has however treated the Elandsfontein project as being an extremely sensitive area, with every environmental aspect being considered.
Elandsfontein has been working closely with the University of Cape Town, the Council of Geoscience and Heritage Western Cape to proclaim the fossil area as a Provincial Heritage Site. This status will help to protect the area and allow further archaeological work to be completed on the dunes. The fossil area is approximately 5km from the mine area. Dr David Braun from the University of Cape Town and Dr Graham Avery, ex-curator from the Iziko Museum, have been part of the process and believe that the mine will have a positive impact on the area, since buried fossils are seldom found without some form of excavation.
Elandsfontein has planned for any stoppages that may occur in the event that mining uncovers any fossils of archaeological interest.
The Elandsfontein phosphate deposit lies below the water table, and within the Elandsfontein aquifer. In order to mine the phosphate deposit, the mining area will be temporarily dewatered. To dewater the mine pit, Elandsfontein will install a set of borehole pumps to divert the water around the mining area, through a network of closed pipes, to be reintroduced to the aquifer downstream from the mining area.
Extensive ground water studies have been carried out by Geoss Ground Water Consultants and SRK Consulting. Geoss developed a regional ground water model, looking at the underground water from the Berg River to the Langebaan Lagoon. As part of a ground water impact assessment, they confirmed that the potential impact on the lagoon from the mining activities would be low. SRK created a groundwater model focussing on the mining area and the lagoon, to allow correct design of the borehole dewatering pumps and the aquifer recharge system. Their findings confirmed that the mine could have negligible impact on the lagoon.
The water studies have been reviewed by a number of specialists, who were in agreement with Geoss’ and SRK’s model inputs and subsequent findings.
Elandsfontein has also sought guidance from the Department of Water and Sanitation, to understand the nature of the aquifers, and any potential impact its operation could have on the ground water in the area.
Examples of similar case studies where the successful discharge of aquifers has been implemented for the dewatering of mining operations include:
• Finsch Diamond Mine, South Africa;
• Kolwezi Copper Mines, DRC;
• Robinson Copper, Molybdenum, Gold Mine, USA;
• Mosaic Phosphate Mine, USA; and
• Premier Coal Mine, Australia.
A surface water study was completed by Blue Science water specialists. There is no surface water within the mining area, or on the Elandsfontein properties. The surface water study considered the impact on the Groen and Sout Rivers, and the Langebaan Lagoon. It was concluded that there will be negligible impact on any surface water by the mine, especially considering the distance of the mine from any surface water.
The mining area will be roughly 500ha on the total property size of almost 5,000ha, and will be fenced off.
The large mammals will be removed from the mining area before any activity starts, and a search and rescue will be conducted for the smaller mammals and reptiles.
The wildlife will then be free to roam on the remaining 4,500ha.
Some plant life within the mining footprint will be temporarily lost. The biggest portion of the mining area is in an area of medium botanical sensitivity. According to Nick Helme, the botanist consulted for the work on Elandsfontein, none of the plant species are classified as critically endangered.
During the preparation of the mine footprint, an extensive search and rescue operation for species of conservation concern is being done and species are being transplanted to a dedicated nursery for replanting during the rehabilitation process.
Mining of the Elandsfontein phosphate deposit will create no harmful waste. The Elandsfontein deposit contains extremely low levels of any harmful elements associated with sedimentary phosphates, such as uranium, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. It also contains no sulphur, which is the element normally associated with acid mine drainage.
The mine will not produce any radioactive waste.
The process at Elandsfontein is a physical separation of the phosphates from the silica. This means that the final mine waste from Elandsfontein will be clean silica sand.
The potential long-term degradation of waste material has been conclusively tested at world-class laboratories.
Because of the selected strip mining method, only a small area of the footprint will be exposed at any one time, which will reduce the potential dust effects.
DDA Consultants, the air quality specialists, believe that the largest source of dust would be the vehicles on the gravel roads in the mining area. To lessen this, Elandsfontein has tarred the main access road between the mine and the R45.
Dust suppression in the form of water sprays will be used on all gravel roads, and on all transfer points within the plant to keep dust to a minimum.
The concentrate will be stored in a closed storage shed, transported to an intermediate storage facility in covered trucks, stored again in a sealed warehouse and finally hauled into port and loaded into the ship via a closed skip. The phosphate concentrate will not be exposed and therefore won’t pose a dust threat.
The impact of the mine on vegetation will be restricted to the actual area of mining and the areas affected by the processing plant and access roads. The rehabilitation plan will ensure that mined out areas will be systematically restored to what it was before mining. At the end of the mine lifespan, only a small portion of the mine will have to be restored. All valuable plants are continuously removed before any disturbance takes place and will be re-planted.
The colourful annual West Coast wild flowers are mostly associated with old agricultural areas and will not be affected by the mining.
Kropz’s South African subsidiary (which is the 100% owner of the Elandsfontein project) is a 30% black owned company.
Ubuntu-Botho, through its wholly owned subsidiary, African Rainbow Capital, is Elandsfontein’s Black Economic Empowerment partner.
The shareholding of Ubuntu-Botho consists of Sizanani-Thusanang Helpmekaar (controlled by the Motsepe family trusts), the Sanlam Ubuntu-Botho Community Development Trust and a broad base of stakeholders that includes church groups, trade unions and women’s groups, amongst others, representing approximately 500,000 previously disadvantaged people and making it one of South Africa’s most broad based empowerment groupings. To date, over 400,000 previously disadvantaged people have directly benefitted from the annual disbursement of funds through the community development trust.
Dr Rejoice Simelane and Prof Thandabantu Nhlapo represent Ubuntu-Botho on the Kropz board.
The direct employment at the mine of roughly 300 people is only a small part of the total impact. According to Theta Research and Strategy Consultants’ Socio Economic Impact Assessment, 300 additional breadwinners will support almost 1,500 individuals. The most significant economic benefit of the mine will be the creation and support of secondary services to the mine, like transport, engineering maintenance, office and catering supplies, general supplies etc.
No. Elandsfontein has secured water from the Saldanha Bay Municipality for the first three years of operation. The mine has been granted 2.4ML/day from the SBM but is expected to use less than this.
The Saldanha Bay Municipality has allocated all the treated effluent water from the Vredenburg waste water treatment plant to Elandsfontein. During the three year period, arrangements will be made to further treat this water for industrial use in Saldanha, to offset the water consumed by the operation.
Eskom has ensured that there is available electricity on the grid and the mine has invested in building its own electrical sub-station on the mine site. The power demand for the project is approximately 8MVA. During load shedding, the power supply to the site will be reduced, as for most other industries. Elandsfontein has made provision for emergency back-up power supply should this happen.
No part of the mine will be visible from any residential area. Only the crest of the softs stockpile may be seen from the R27 and the R45 during the mining operation. The nearest communities (Langebaan and Hopefield) are approximately 15km away, as the crow flies. Hopefield is 23km by road from the mine office.
The R45 is a freight route linking the N7 with the Port of Saldanha. The main access road for the mine is planned from the R45. The R27, which is the main tourist route in the area, will not be impacted.
Based on current calculations, trucks will travel a maximum of 96 round trips per day to deliver concentrate to Saldanha. Over the life of the mine, the Elandsfontein project is expected to increase heavy traffic on the R45 by up to 23%.
This has been classified as a medium negative impact by Royal Haskoning DHV, who conducted the traffic impact assessment, completed in April 2015.
Working together with the local transport contractor, Elandsfontein is looking at using larger vehicles, which would reduce the number of concentrate trucks on the road by almost 30%.
A specialist study has shown that noise from the mine cannot be heard 1.7km from the mining activity. The closest community to the mine is approximately 15km away.
The phosphate concentrate produced will be a stable, odourless grain. At a localised level, repeated, direct inhalation of excessive dust may cause irritation to the respiratory system and this is fully mitigated for by strict health and safety practices for all mine workers.
The mining operations are currently estimated to run for 15 years. Rehabilitation will take place for the full life of the mine and for a further three years once mining has ended.
Elandsfontein, as part of its offset commitments, has committed to creating a large protected area, which will be known as the Elandsfontein Nature Reserve. The reserve will be created from the remaining extent of the land together with certain neighbouring properties to contribute towards the sustainability and conservation of the West Coast area.
According to the rehabilitation specialist (Deon van Eeden of Vula Environmental Services), the area will be self-sustainable two winter seasons after final rehabilitation. It is Elandsfontein’s intention to leave behind a fully functional ecosystem that can be incorporated into the Elandsfontein Nature Reserve or potentially into the West Coast National Park.
Deon was involved in the rehabilitation of the Chemphos mine, which only commenced long after the mine was closed. From lessons learnt during this project, Elandsfontein has started rehabilitation processes and planning now to make sure that the land used for mining can be integrated into the larger conservation area.
There are two parts of the rehabilitation process that need to be considered. Once steady state mining has been reached, ongoing rehabilitation will be covered in the daily operating cost of the mine. The closure rehabilitation costs are covered in the form of a bank guarantee, which is held by the Department of Mineral Resources. This quantum of the rehabilitation fund held by the Department of Mineral Resources is recalculated every year, based on the detailed mine plan for the following 12 months and the costs associated with the removal of the permanent infrastructure that will be removed once the mine is closed, allowing the rehabilitation cost to be spread over the life of the mine.
Certain elements of the infrastructure, such as the mine access road, the overhead power lines and water pipeline and the mine offices, will remain following the closure of the mine. These items will facilitate tourism development in the area.