Murray & Roberts Cementation, part of listed construction and engineering group Murray & Roberts (M&R), has secured a R2.6 billion contract at De Beers’s Venetia underground mine project. Venetia in Limpopo is an open pit mine and South Africa’s largest producer of diamonds, contributing 40 percent of the country’s production. M&R said yesterday that this was the first of a series of potential awards by De Beers to build its multibillion-rand underground mine beneath the operating open pit diamond mine. Henry Laas, the group chief executive at M&R, said the contract was Murray & Roberts Cementation’s first major award at Venetia but the planned total investment by De Beers potentially represented the single largest opportunity for M&R since the Eskom power build programme. The scope of works comprises the building of an underground mine, which includes sinking, equipping and commissioning a decline shaft and two vertical shafts, horizontal tunnel development and the establishment of loading levels plus ventilation, and ground and water handling infrastructure. Laas said this was a flagship project for M&R and its local project team had been complemented with project management and operational capacity from its Cementation mining companies in Australia and Canada. “The more advanced Canadian shaft sinking methodology will be utilised for sinking the vertical shafts and Cementation Canada, which is recognised as the leader in this method, will be providing specialist training. The model is designed for all activities in the shaft-sinking production cycle to be undertaken in-line. Although good sinking rates are possible, the primary drive is improved safety, as no concurrent shaft sinking activities are required,” he said. M&R rose 4.36 percent to R24.90. – Roy Cokayne