De Beers awards first contract for R20bn mine expansion

23 July 2014

Construction company Murray & Roberts has become one of the first beneficiaries of diamond giant De Beers’ R20-billion expansion of its Venetia mine in South Africa, winning a R2.6-billion contract to develop the shafts, tunnels and associated infrastructure for the new underground operation.

Venetia is currently an open pit mine and South Africa’s largest producer of diamonds, contributing around 40% of the country’s annual production.

Last year, De Beers announced that it would be investing R20-billion in converting the mine to an underground operation, to begin producing its first diamonds in 2021, ramp up to full production in 2024, and continue producing beyond 2040.

President Jacob Zuma, speaking at the official launch of construction work on the project in October, said it signalled that South Africa’s mining sector was poised for new growth, adding: “This project is also significant because it demonstrates confidence in South Africa as an investment destination of choice by both foreign and South African companies.”

On Wednesday, Murray & Roberts was awarded the contract to build a decline shaft, two vertical shafts, horizontal access tunnels, loading levels, and associated ventilation, ground and water handling infrastructure for the project.

Company group chief executive Henry Laas said this was the first of a series of potential awards to Murray & Roberts Cementation, and “potentially represents the single largest opportunity to Murray & Roberts since the Eskom power build programme”.

Laas said the “more advanced” Canadian shaft sinking methodology would be used for sinking the vertical shafts, adding that Cementation Canada, “who is recognised as leaders in applying this methodology, will be providing specialist training of the shaft sinking crews.

“Although good sinking rates are possible with this methodology, the primary drive in the transition to this methodology is improved safety, as no concurrent shaft sinking activities are required,” Laas said.

SAinfo reporter