Otjikoto mine project gathers momentum

By Hilary Mare

THE development of the Wolfshag underground project at B2Gold Otjikoto mine continues to progress on schedule with the first blast undertaken last week at the portal to the mine.

The Wolfshag underground mining project was approved by the B2Gold board in December 2019, following an internal trade-off study between open pit and underground mining.  The development tender issued earlier in 2020, to source the skills of an experienced underground miner for the initial phase of decline development, attracted global attention and was eventually awarded to Murray & Roberts Cementation in joint venture with Lewcor Namibia (MRCL). 

The total project development cost, including contractor costs, amount to US$ 56.5 million (N$860 million).

“During August and September MRCL mobilised equipment and facilities to Otjikoto mine. Recruitment of their labour force commenced and new recruits are meshed and accommodated at the onsite contractors’ camp.  The MRCL labour plan requires the appointment of 126 Namibians during the various construction phases of the project, with positions advertised nationwide.  Preference is given to local candidates from the Otjozondjupa region.  Appointees undergo a comprehensive induction and certification process to ensure compliance with strict safety rules and mining legislation related to underground operations.

“The first blast taken at the portal to the Wolfshag underground mine was preceded by high wall support of the mined-out Otjikoto Phase 2 pit.  Shotcrete cement, cable anchors, roof bolts and wire mesh were installed ensuring safe access for vehicles and personnel entering the underground operation,” Namasiku Nalisa, the public relations superintendent at the mine said this week.

The central part of the underground mine will be located 275m below surface and accessed via a single 1300m-long decline.  The production phase of the project will commence by January 2022 when lateral development reaches the main ore body.  The ore will be mined with a longhole stoping method at a production rate of 1 100 tonnes per day.

“Fresh air will be supplied to the underground workings via a 4m wide ventilation raise equipped with an emergency escape ladderway. Active dewatering of the underground mine will be done from the surface by means of a large diameter dewatering well.  Installed underground pumping capacity will be more than adequate to deal with any inrush of water into the underground workings.  Systematic ground support with roof bolts and wire mesh will be conducted in all excavations and no personnel will be allowed to work under an unsupported roof.

Load, haul and dump vehicles (LHDs) will be remotely operated to extract ore from the open stopes. All heavy mining vehicles are fitted with proximity detection systems and will sound an alarm when near to humans,” further stated Nalisa.