The future of Skorpion Zinc Mine was thrown into major doubt this week with parent company, Vedanta Resources, announcing that the life of mine may only be extended by three years when it expires in 2020.
“As it stands, we might only extend the mine life by another 2-3 years,” The head of Vedanta's Africa Base Metals unit, Deshnee Naidoo, told Reuters this week.
Naidoo said it may not be possible to mine underground when open-pit operations at Skorpion Zinc become exhausted around 2020.
Skorpion is expected to produce about 90,000 tonnes of zinc this year, reaching approximately 130,000 tonnes by 2020.
Vedanta is looking at building another power plant at a zinc refinery at Gamsberg in the Northern Cape region of South Africa.
It is already bringing on new production at Gamsberg, where output should start within a month, ramping up to full production of 250,000 tonnes annually in about a year, Naidoo said.
According to the 2017 Annual Report of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia, the approval and execution of the Pit 112 life extension project in 2017 created an additional three years of life for Skorpion Zinc.
“Successful implementation of the low-grade treatment strategy and significant improvement in production quality resulted in good overall performance.”
In an earlier interview with the Windhoek Observer in March, Vedanta said it estimated that its underground resource contains as much as 3,6 million tons of zinc and was investigating the possibility of underground mining.
“Our current oxide resource continues at depth with approximately 3,6 million tonnes of resource currently delineated below the current economic open pit. Our current exploration campaign is focused on understanding the extent of underground resources,” the company said at the time.