Sheba Mine

Sheba Mine, part of the historic Barberton Mines complex, is one of the world’s oldest gold mines, with operations dating back to 1885. Renowned for its high-grade ore and pivotal role in the region’s development, Sheba continues contributing to the Barberton Mines’ legacy of gold production. Today, it remains a beacon of productivity and innovation, adding significantly to the region’s prosperity.

Sheba Mine Performance FY23

Sheba Mine, with its rich reserves of gold, has been a cornerstone of the Barberton Mines complex since the 19th century. The mine has played an integral role in the overall output of the Barberton Mines complex, with mining operations primarily focused on underground and high-grade reef orebodies. To supplement this, the Barberton Tailings Retreatment Plant (BTRP) will soon incorporate ore from the Western Cross orebody, offering a lower-grade, yet high-volume mining opportunity that is accessible through the Southwall Adit and poised to enhance the BTRP’s output. Given the high gold price environment and available capacity at BTRP, Pan African Resources is able to bulk-mine lower-grade orebodies profitably, as opposed to the previous model of mining high grade areas only.

Situated near the Sheba Mine, the Royal Sheba project, a separate entity within the Barberton Mines framework, will further bolster the BTRP’s operations. Processing a 10,000-tonne bulk sample from Royal Sheba has delivered promising results, with grades exceeding expectations and recoveries closely matching projections. This venture is projected to add an estimated eight years to the BTRP’s life, potentially extracting about 235,000 ounces of gold at an average grade of 3g/t.

The orebody’s depth offers opportunities for further expansion to enhance the project’s longevity. Feasibility studies and financial models for the Royal Sheba project are being finalized and a phased development strategy is being considered. A feasibility study is in progress and will be available in the next few months, following which a decision will be announced.

Underground Expansion and Exploration Drilling

Sheba Mine’s recent production achievements are a testament to its strategic advancements, particularly in the last quarter of the financial year. Continuous operations, optimizing mining methods at the Main Reef Complex (MRC) and Zwartkoppie (ZK) stopes, and the increased use of trackless mining machinery have played pivotal roles in improving production levels. Average monthly underground production has increased a substantial 38.5%, with gold output rising from 40kg to 49kg a month.

Sheba Mine has adopted an up-dip mining method to minimize dilution in its narrow orebodies, a significant improvement over the previous cut-and-fill approach. Concurrently, Consort Mine has focused on preparing the PC Shaft’s remnant blocks for mining, targeting high-grade ore between the 41 to 45 Level range. These initiatives are part of Barberton Mines’ broader strategy to boost operational efficiency and maximize resource extraction.

The mine’s focus on lateral drilling has extended the life of the mine by identifying new extensions to existing mined areas. The infusion of technical expertise and the application of cutting-edge technologies and orebody modeling software has been instrumental in achieving this progress. Completing Project Dibanisa, linking the underground infrastructure of Sheba and Fairview Mines, and adopting a sophisticated ore tracking system have collectively streamlined operations and reinforced Sheba Mine’s enduring commitment to operational excellence and resource optimization.

 

Sustainable Mining Practices

As we navigate the final three years of operations at the BTRP’s existing tailings sources, Pan African Resources’ strategic planning ensures continuity and growth by integrating ore from the promising Western Cross and Royal Sheba orebodies. The recent successful processing of a 10,000-ton bulk sample from these sites marks a significant step forward.

Our preliminary life-of-mine optimization suggests a robust eight-year production horizon at Royal Sheba. The Western Cross orebody, part of Sheba Mine and accessible via the Southwall adit, offers a lower-grade (3g/t to 4g/t) but wider (10m) free-milling orebody suitable for bulk mining. This will complement the Royal Sheba project and provide additional feed to the BTRP.

We’ve also taken decisive steps to lower the All-In Sustaining Cost (AISC) at our higher-cost operations, specifically at the Sheba and Consort mines. These remedial measures are part of our commitment to sustainable and cost-effective mining practices. Notably, Sheba Mine has achieved a remarkable milestone of 11 years of fatality-free shifts, underscoring our dedication to safety and operational excellence.

 

Environmental Impact and Rehabilitation

In August 2022, our board members participated in an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) tour in Barberton, highlighting our commitment to sustainability and community engagement. The tour featured the inauguration of the Barberton Blueberries initiative, a testament to our investment in local agriculture and biodiversity. Additionally, the board visited the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary, showcasing our support for wildlife conservation, and the Barberton Nature Reserve, underscoring our dedication to maintaining biodiversity and preserving natural habitats.

The tour also included an inspection of the Royal Sheba project at Barberton Mines, where we are implementing advanced environmental management practices. Pan African Resources’ commitment to community investment is further reflected in our contributions to Corporate Social Investment (CSI) and Local Economic Development (LED) projects. This includes a substantial investment of US$1.8 million in leadership and skills development programs, adult education, training, and bursaries. These initiatives are integral to our strategy for creating sustainable value and fostering a positive environmental and social legacy.

 

ESG Initiatives

Since 2010, we have been instrumental in advancing educational opportunities in neighboring communities by developing and enhancing educational infrastructure and granting bursaries to deserving students. In collaboration with the Adopt-a-School Foundation and local project management firms, we have invested about ZAR70 million in the construction and modernization of educational facilities at primary and secondary institutions, such as Sinqobile Primary, Sheba Primary, and Ngwane Secondary Schools.

These schools were previously dilapidated and in desperate need of attention and upkeep. Specifically, Sheba Primary was converted into new, modern facilities within the community from deteriorating old mine hostel structures, which also resulted in reduced transportation expenses. The recent ZAR37 million projects at Ngwane and Sheba schools have revitalized their facilities for over 1,200 learners and 47 educators and generated 285 jobs, involving 35 local contractors.

Handing over these schools to the Department of Basic Education in August 2023 was a testament to our dedication to community empowerment. The impact of our ESG efforts extends beyond infrastructure developments; both schools have reported increased enrolment and improved pass rates, indicating a rise in educational standards and community confidence in local schooling. This has, in turn, contributed to lower youth delinquency and provided our operations with a larger pool of skilled individuals for employment and training opportunities, further integrating our ESG efforts with long-term community development.

 

Overcoming Power Challenges

In response to the persistent challenges of load shedding and power disruptions, we have proactively implemented a series of robust measures to ensure uninterrupted operations. Our strategic approach includes integrating alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, complemented by a network of backup generators that guarantee a continuous power supply. This multi-tiered energy resilience plan safeguards our productivity and underscores our commitment to sustainable practices.