Palabora Copper Ltd’s mission is to grow sustainably and profitably while delivering excellent value to all of its stakeholders, including its employees, shareholders and the community within which it operates.
Producing some 60,000 tonnes of refined copper a year, located in the Ba-Phalaborwa area of the Limpopo Province, Palabora Copper is South Africa’s only producer of refined copper and provides the local market with 85 percent of its copper requirements.
However, the current operation, the Lift I Project is expected to come to the end of its life in early 2016 and in an endeavour to extend the life of the mine by a further 20 years, the company is hoping to develop a second underground pit, the Lift II project.
In 2013, a pre-feasibility study was concluded, and the board decided to move on to the full feasibility study which was also completed in May 2014. For that period company spent about R700 million in the early work and declines.
Keith Mathole, the company’ general manager for corporate affairs and company secretary, said at the time of publishing: “The board has yet to make a full decision on the Lift II Project full development which is expected to possibly run until 2022.
“The approval would mean we will be running one of South Africa’s biggest underground mine development currently which will see about R10 billion being spent on the development works.”
As part of its growth strategy, the company is also aiming to insure its yields of magnetite, a by-product of the copper operations, and meet the production targets of the planned new operations.
It has already built and is in the process of commissioning a new R156million Belt Filter Plant which will enable the company to force-dry six million tonnes of magnetite a year to meet export needs.
The Board has also approved a further R170million spend on upgrading the Magnetite Booster and Separation Plant. This plant will process and upgrade the magnetite from 58 percent iron oxide grade to 65 percent magnetite grade.
Further works have also been undertaken to assess future business and technical operations regarding the copper processing operations including upgrading the Smelter to maintain compliance with new government air quality regulations.
Previously known as Palabora Mining Company, the entity was incorporated in South Africa in August 1956 when it was owned and managed by Rio Tinto, which held 57.7 percent of the shares, and Anglo American which has 16.8 percent.
The Palabora mine has been in operation since it was incorporated in 1956 and during the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s the open-pit copper mine and associated processing plants produced more than 2.7 million tons of copper.
On September 5, 2012, the two companies, thus Rio Tinto and Anglo America, announced their intention to sell their respective interest in Palabora and on December 11, they had reached agreement for its sale to a consortium led by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) of South Africa Ltd and China’s Hebei Iron & Steel Group.
The refinery produces continuous cast rod for the domestic market and cathodes for export. By-products aside from magnetite include zirconium chemicals and nickel sulphate as well as small quantities of gold, silver and platinum.
Palabora also owns a nearby vermiculite (a versatile industrial mineral with many industrial uses) deposit which is mined and processed for sale worldwide.
It has a strong company ethos towards looking after its people, of which it employs about 2,200, and to this end is a strong supporter of the South African Government’s Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) and the Mining Charter.
It has developed a comprehensive Transformation Strategy supported by a set of policies and procedures that seek to address the seven elements on the BEE scorecard and is committed to fostering an inclusive equal opportunity workplace.
The revised South African Mining Charter emphasises a target of 26 percent black ownership of the country’s mining assets by 2014 and Palabora has already achieved that as previously disadvantaged people have a shareholding; thus community 10 percent, employees, 10 percent and BEE Consortium six percent which meets the Department of Mineral Resources requirements of 26 percent.
In line with the charter, its operations have social and labour plans with targets which have been developed in collaboration with employee representatives, communities and Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality.
The company states: “We are actively moving towards the achievement of employment equity and steadily progressing towards meeting the procurement targets as set out in the Mining Charter.
“In order to increase the number of black businesses supplying to the company, we have introduced a supplier development programme, in October 2013, which has seen 30 local companies being selected to start accessing opportunities within the mine.
“The idea is to ensure that we also grow an industry of reputable small and medium sized enterprises that can create further jobs and sustain the livelihood of Ba-Phalaborwa beyond mining.
“The appointment of Historically Disadvantaged South Africans at professional and managerial levels has increased from 44.8 percent at December 31 2010 to 62.6 percent the following year, with the appointment of women reaching 12.1 percent compared to 10.6 percent the previous year.”
The company has written and developed its code of ethics to follow strategic imperatives which include: providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees and contractor employees; practicing sound environmental management to ensure the sustainable biodiversity of the natural environment within which it operates.
We acknowledge and respect our stakeholders’ interest and concerns; striving to be a leading corporate citizen within the mining industry and supplying a high standard of quality products and service both reliably and responsibly at national and global level.
Duty of care
Palabora is also working hard to improve the lives of those living in the Ba-Phalaborwa communities. A number of initiatives have been launched to help the communities of Makhushane, Maseke Mashishimale, Selwane and Majeje.
Palabora Copper through the Palabora Foundation has worked with a number of other stakeholders to deliver a range of projects aimed at improving the health, education and infrastructure in the region.
Projects have included establishment of the new Phelang Wellness and Disease Management Centre which has recently opened to the public and been set up to help prevent and deliver treatment, care and support of HIV, TB, STIs and access to social services.
The company has also built a modern Early Childhood Education Centre offering places for 80 children for the Selwana Community and through the Palabora foundation it provides grade eight learners with The Learner Support Programme which offers 120 students with potential an incubation and educational enrichment program in maths, science, biology English and World of Work.
Between 2011 and early 2013
The 30TEN+5 programme was designed to assist 45 local entrepreneurs with training and operational and/or financial support to build their existing enterprises.
They have received help in variety of ways from entrepreneurial training, funding support, administrative support or the support of joint venture and partnerships which result in substantive skills transfer.
The company’s commitment to its Palabora mining operations is evident in its all-encompassing strategies to not only provide good returns for its shareholder but to display a profound duty of care to both its employees, the surrounding environments and the community.
With such a strong growth plan in place it is clear the company will successfully be producing copper for many years to come.