New Manganese mine sod-turning to take place on September 14 in Northern Cape

The official sod-turning for South Africa’s newest manganese mine, the Tshipi Borwa Mine, will take place on September 14, 2011 near Mamatwan in the Northern Cape.

Tshipi is an open pit operation set to commence production in 2012. The mine is designed to produce 2.4-million tonnes of top quality manganese ore, and the quantity of the ore resources should ensure that the mine will be delivering economic benefits to South Africans for decades to come. The Tshipi Borwa mine is majority owned by a broad based black South African entity and has a strong international shareholding through Australian-listed Jupiter Mining and Singapore’s OM Holdings.

The shareholders have raised the equity necessary to construct the new mine; machines are already hard at work to prepare the foundations which will need to last for decades to come.

“The manganese lies 70 metres below the present level of the Kalahari and before we reach the manganese we have to remove the overburden,” said Mokgosi Nkoana, Tshipi’s general manager, “South African mining expertise is very advanced in terms of extracting the ore safely, cost effectively and with regard to the environment. This together with the significant ore resources, both in terms of quality and quantity, are some of the considerations that made this new mine attractive for investors.”

Another task for the miners is construction of a new rail siding. “We have already started construction of a railway siding with a state-of-the-art rapid-loading terminal. This will enable us to efficiently load the manganese ore and transport it to South African ports for export,” said Nkoana.

Finn Behnken, a Tshipi director, says that Tshipi é Ntle is well positioned to become a significant supplier of manganese to international markets. “The quality of South Africa resources is exceptional and we have the ability to mine the manganese by means of open pit methods which adds to the ease of operation,” he said.

Behnken also praised the structure of the Tshipi partnership. “We have a truly extraordinary partnership between South African and international companies. Each partner has a unique set of skills that they have brought to the table.”

Behnken said the market demand for manganese remains strong. “Ninety per cent of manganese is used in steelmaking and demand is driven by trends in steel production which has recovered meaningfully after the global financial crisis, largely due to the continual and strong Chinese growth rate. China produces approximately 50 per cent of the world’s steel and over the last few years has become a major customer of imported manganese ore.”

Tshipi é Ntle’s major shareholder is Ntsimbintle which owns 50,1 per cent. Jupiter Mines Limited owns 49,9 per cent. Jupiter is 85 per cent owned by the Pallinghurst Co-Investors, an inventor grouping under Brian Gilbertson’s leadership. Singapore-based OMH has an indirect 13 per cent stake in Tshipi.

Saki Macozoma, chairperson on Ntsimbintle stresses that Tshipi is true South Africa venture. “Black South African business has piloted this project since inception and it is very satisfying to now be at the point where the official sod-turning can take place,” he said. “From the beginning we were determined to make sure that our shareholding represents broad based black economic empowerment and we have been successful in that many of our shareholders are small scale entrepreneurs and developmental bodies such as the John Taolo Developmental Trust, which helps a wide variety of social development projects in the Northern Cape.

Macozoma said that initially 350 new jobs would be created by the new mine and as many as 2 000 additional jobs would be created through the provision of goods and services.

Singapore-based OMH will manage marketing activities for Ntsimbintle’s share of production from the new mine. OMH is a world leading independent manganese focused producer, smelter and marketer. It already has a manganese mine in Australia and a sinter and alloy processing facility in China.

“This transaction will considerably strengthen trade ties between South Africa, Singapore and China and will be beneficial for all partners,” said Macozoma.

Cynthia Mogodi, chairperson of the John Taolo Gaetsewe Developmental Trust, which together with Ntsimbintle Mining’s other broad based shareholders holds in excess of 40% of Ntsimbintle Mining, stressed the importance of the mine for the impoverished region.

“It is very important project for our region which is one of the poorest in South Africa,” she said. “It should be made widely known and celebrated that this is a black-controlled mine that will help provide a better future for the people of the Northern Cape and generate tax revenues that will benefit all South Africans.”

The sod-turning ceremony will reflect the commitment of Tshipi é Ntle and its shareholders to the Northern Cape. Even though this is a remote and sparsely populated region of South Africa, local suppliers and service providers have been identified to participate in the venture and to supply their services where possible.