The town Aggeneys is located some 65 kilometres west of Pofadder, on the N14 highway to Springbok, on the farm Aggeneys. Located immediately west of the town lies Vedanta Zinc, Africa and Ireland’s Black Mountain zinc / lead / copper / silver mine. Initiated in around 1976, Aggeneys town was established to facilitate the Black Mountain Mine, which is an underground base-metal operation that currently employs over 600 permanent staff.
Sunset at Deeps Shaft
The area is immediately surrounded by various mountain peaks and boasts some of the most diverse and complex geology in Southern Africa, offering some magnificent walking and hiking opportunities. Some of the richest copper, lead and zinc concentrations occur within the immediate area, which is obviously the main reason for Aggeneys’s existence in the first place, as Aggeneys, were established primarily for the purpose of mining.
As Black Mountain Mine acknowledges Vedanta Zinc’s safety policies, it is important to note that there are rules and regulations that have to be adhered to whilst on the mine premises. These rules are not only there to ensure corporate governance, but more importantly to ensure everyone’s safety. Also, as Aggeneys has been declared a municipality, all standard South African laws apply in and around the Aggeneys township, including traffic laws.
Some interesting facts:
Exploration in this area started in 1929 when the first shaft was sunk on Swartberg – the “Black Mountain” of the company’s name. Desultory investigations continued at sporadic intervals after that until 1970 when Phelps Dodge Corporation commenced a diamond drilling programme. In 1971 the Swartberg ore body was intersected, in 1972 the ore body at Noeniespoort se Kop (“Broken Hill”) and in 1973 the Aggeneys Mountain (“Big Syncline”) ore body. The most promising of the three ore bodies was that at Noeniespoort and an audit to procure bulk samples for metallurgical testing was driven into the hill in 1974. In 1976 Phelps Dodge Corporation commissioned a feasibility study for an underground mine. Late in 1976, Phelps Dodge decided to seek a partner for the venture. Negotiations with Gold Fields of South Africa Limited (GFSA) followed and in October 1977 an agreement was reached whereby Gold Fields and its associates subscribed for a 51% interest in the Black Mountain Mineral Development Company (Proprietary) Limited. The acquisition cost Gold Fields R15 million in cash. Phelps Dodge also provided an interest-bearing deferred loan of R35 million. Loans from banks and other institutions contributed a further R111 million.
In the late nineties the ore reserves were nearing depletion and the mine’s closure seemed imminent. At about the same time, GFSA decided to sell off its base metal assets, including Black Mountain. After conducting a due-diligence study, Anglo American Corporation purchased Black Mountain and the nearby, as yet undeveloped, Gamsberg zinc deposit.
Low key exploration through the nineties, aimed mainly at finding extensions to the Broken Hill ore body, had yielded little encouragement, but the geologists had always felt optimistic. With the change in ownership almost certainly signalling an end to the drilling program, the Chief Geologist, Pottie Potgieter, requested funds for one final hole to test an area further out from the previously drilled holes. This proved a turning point in the Black Mountain history, as high grade mineralization was intersected at a depth of just over 1000m. Funds were immediately made available for an expanded drilling programme, and the rest, as they say, is history. The results prompted a full scale feasibility study, culminating in the decision to exploit what was subsequently named the “Deeps” ore body. A 1750m shaft has been sunk and equipped, and at the time of writing, production was ramping up to design capacity. The future of Black Mountain.
S. Coetzee, H. Boucher & C. Kihn
Anglo American announced the sale of its Zinc portfolio to Vedanta on 10 May 2010, for a total consideration of US$1,338 million. Due to the regulatory approval and competition clearance processes, separate completion dates were expected for each of the three businesses within the Zinc portfolio, namely Skorpion Zinc, Namibia; The Lisheen Mine, Ireland and Black Mountain Mining (Pty) Ltd, South Africa.
Anglo American completed the $364 million sale of its Black Mountain Mining zinc interests to Vedanta Resources on Saturday 5th February 2011. The directors RK Kumar, LJ Karstens, PE Venter and NR Williams are hard at work to make Gamsberg their new and main priority and to put Aggeneys finally on the map of the mining industry.