The Crocodile River Mine is located on the western limb of the Bushveld Complex, near the town of Brits in South Africa's North West Province.
The Maroelabult section was previously operated successfully as an open pit mine. Both Maroelabult and Zandfontein are now underground mining operations. A combination of the rising Rand exchange rate and the contractors' inability to mine the operation efficiently using highly mechanized mining methods underground resulted in the mine being placed on care and maintenance in December 2003. The mine was re-opened in 2004 and has since undergone extensive development and refurbishment of surface facilities. However, in June 2013, due to continuing negative outlook in the global economic environment, the sustained weakness in PGM pricing and the current operating environment in South Africa, Eastplats decided to suspend funding for the Crocodile River Mine and will reinitiate funding for production once conditions support such a decision.
The project comprises four mining sections, Maroelabult in the east, Zandfontein in the centre, Crocette in the west, and Kareespruit (to be developed) between Maroelabult and Zandfontein.
Primary access at the Maroelabult section consists of two declines, one for men and material and one equipped with a conveyor belt for rock transport from underground.
The Zandfontein section is equipped with a vertical shaft and primary access consisting of four separate decline roadways from surface. A new conveyor system is in place, extensive underground development is ongoing, and the vertical shaft has been refurbished and commissioned.
A tailings retreatment plant was commissioned in 2007 and construction of a chrome recovery plant was completed in 2008.
The UG2 Reef is mined at Crocodile River. The UG2 is a distinct chromitite layer, approximately 140 centimetres thick at the mine. The reporting of Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves is in accordance with the principles and guidelines of the South African Code for Reporting of Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves (The SAMREC Code) and Canadian NI 43-101. The Mineral Resources grade and tonnages incorporate estimated geological losses.
During financial year 2007, significant work was undertaken to gain a better understanding of the geological structure across the Crocodile River Mine property, especially the Kareespruit section whereas an extensive infill drilling programme was conducted.
In 2010, Crocodile River Mine development consisted of underground electrical upgrades, and ongoing underground works at the Zandfontein vertical shaft, including the construction of dams for underground water control. The shaft hoisting capacity is 100,000 tonnes of ore per month plus associated waste. The shaft, along with additional decline development, will allow access into the deeper parts of the ore body.
In 2012, due to depressed PGM prices, the Company focused on on-reef development work in the Zandfontein section and continued with ore production from the Maroelabult section. This will enable the Company to preserve capital and yet be able to ramp up production quickly when PGM prices recover.
As a result of the lower trend in PGM prices, mine development of the Crocette section was prostponed in 2012. Infill drilling has confirmed the continuity of the UG2 reef at Crocette to a depth of 600m with a dip of 18º, a reef width of 1.2m and an estimated head grade of 4.1 g/t (5PGE+Au). Construction power for the project is being provided by Eskom, the South African public utility company and the Company is in discussions with Eskom for the supply of permanent power.
Due to the continuing negative outlook in the global economic environment, the sustained weakness in PGM pricing and the current operating environment in South Africa, the Company decided in June 2013 to suspend funding for the Crocodile River Mine. The Company will continue to reassess the viability of production at CRM and reinitiate funding for production once conditions support such a decision.
Eastplats has made a significant investment in infrastructure at the Crocodile River Mine, and the Care and Maintenance proposal for the mine will ensure that the mine remains in a state of operational readiness in order to take advantage of this investment and to secure future employment opportunities when economic conditions and the operating environment improve.