JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s largest coal producer and black empowered mining group, Exxaro said it had broken  ground on a R3.3 billion digital mine in Mpumalanga province, the first of its kind.

It said the Belfast Implementation Project (BIP) – the last good-quality A-grade, high-yield coal deposit in Mpumalanga – would start producing thermal coal in 2020, and would create close to 6,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and the life of the mine, with almost 20 000 people benefiting. 

"It is expected to contribute R39 billion to local GDP (gross domestic product) over the life of the mine, with Nkangala district municipality’s GDP estimated to gain as much as R2.1 billion per annum, including R966 million – a full one percent increase – of direct impact on the district municipality," Exxaro said.

The new mine - which is located about 10 km south-west of Belfast, is also the first of its kind in South Africa to have a “digital twin”, a complete digital replica of the mine which will allow management and the contracted company to connect to and manage it from anywhere. Maintenance teams will be connected to machinery to analyse and pick up problems early, resulting in increased safety and reduced downtime.

Construction, which began seven months ago, is expected to last 24 months in total and current life of mine is expected to be 17 years once operational.

The mine will  produce 2.7 Mtpa A-grade thermal coal for export. Thermal is burned for steam to run turbines to generate electricity either to public electricity grids or directly to industries consuming electrical power, such as chemical industries, paper manufacturers, the cement industry and brickworks.

- African News Agency (ANA)