ANGLO AMERICAN's Mogalakwena mine on the Bushveld's Northern Limb. Photograph: Anglo Platinum

ANGLO AMERICAN's Mogalakwena mine on the Bushveld's Northern Limb. Photograph: Anglo Platinum

Mechanised Platinum:
A Widening Divide

Issue 113, January 2015

Continued from Page 1 ➤

...average reef thickness is 24m, the height of an 8-storey building, whilst the deposit covers a 5-mile radius, the size of Lower Manhattan. “It is going to be quite a transformation for the South African mining industry.”

Friedland however is not the first US-born buccaneer to try to revolutionise South Africa’s platinum industry.

Brad Mills

Brad Mills was born into a Long Island banking family, growing up in New Jersey. After leaving BHP Billiton he was tipped to lead Anglo American, but joined Lonmin in 2004. “What excites me about Lonmin is how we can transform the company,” Mills said, “and that can become a model for transformation in South Africa.”

Swedish equipment manufacturer Sandvik had identified narrow-reef platinum as a key growth market. Using Lonmin as a pilot, it partnered with the company in 2000 and after technical meetings in Lyon, co-funded a fleet of ultra-low profile machinery.

Mills looked to the introduction of longwall mining in America’s coal industry in the 1950s and invested heavily in Sandvik’s technology, which could drill, blast and clear rock in 1m high stopes, otherwise done by teams of men using handheld machinery.

Fatalities had risen steadily leading up to 2004, whilst labour accounted for 60 per cent of Lonmin’s costs. Mills mechanised Lonmin’s Hossy and Saffy shafts and aimed for 50 per cent of production to be mechanised by 2010, shifting costs from labour to consumables, such as wires and rubber seals.

Bonuses became linked to fatalities and Mills bought the Akanani deposit on the Northern Limb, where deep reefs could be mined like a conventional base metals mine. He also tried to drop Lonmin’s Pandora joint-venture, which could not be fully mechanised, and surprised the market by not bidding for the Leeuwkop deposit, a natural extension to Lonmin’s Marikana operations, which passed to rival Impala unchallenged.

Mills was dubbed a “mechanisation zealot”, whilst critics said...

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