Harmony Gold Mining and White Rivers Exploration said they found a major gold deposit in South Africa’s Free State that could lead to one of the country’s first new mines for the metal in the last 25 years.
The resource contains 11.5 million ounces of gold at a grade of 8.9 grams per tonne of ore, White Rivers said in an e-mailed statement. Mining would take place 1.1 kilometers to 2.2 kilometers below ground, next to Harmony’s Target mine, it said. The project is 65% owned by White Rivers and 35% by Harmony.
“The joint venture project’s close proximity to Harmony Gold’s Target mine provides direct access to existing infrastructure, thereby limiting capital funding required and facilitating a fast-track development resulting in a payback of under four years,” White Rivers said.
The companies plan to conduct a full prefeasibility study to examine the economic merits of the project, which would be one of the first new gold mines to open in South Africa’s Witwatersrand Basin since the South Deep mine began in 1990. It is now owned by Gold Fields.
Producers have extensively mined the Witwatersrand gold basin since it was discovered in 1886. South Africa was the world’s top bullion producer for more than 100 years until 2007, and dropped to the sixth largest in 2015, according to the World Gold Council.
Once up and running, the White Rivers-Harmony project could produce 250 000 ounces to 300 000 ounces of gold a year for more than 30 years, White Rivers said. The area is also “highly prospective” for uranium, it said.
White Rivers said it plans to trade its shares in London and Johannesburg in 2017.