New tech helps DRDGold widen its fine mar­gins

In 2013 DRDGold com­menced work to im­prove op­er­at­ing ef­fi­cien­cies. Er­rors in the tech im­ple­men­ta­tion made for a bad start, but once this was reme­died the com­pany ex­pe­ri­enced an op­er­a­tional turn­around.

Finweek English Edition - - IN THE NEWS - BY DAVID MCKAY

Ex­tract­ing gold from Jo­han­nes­burg’s dumps is an ex­act science, which makes DRDGold – one of t he prin­ci­pal op­er­a­tors in this sliver of the SA min­ing mar­ket – more of a tech­nol­ogy com­pany than a miner.

Take, for in­stance, the fact that ret r i ev i ng a n i mproved 0. 26g to 0.29g/ton of rock re-mined means the com­pany can lock in re­serves – which didn’t ex­ist pre­vi­ously when the yield was 0.18g/ton – of 10 to 15 years. These are tiny mar­gins and DRDGold CEO, Niël Pre­to­rius, has to make sure the com­pany’s main pro­cess­ing plant in Brak­pan runs with­out a hitch.

In or­der to im­prove eff icien­cies, the com­pany em­barked on a R650m tech­nol­ogy pro­gramme in 2013. The project didn’t work ini­tially and the com­pany had to sus­pend the new tech­nol­ogy while it found the fault. “In ret­ro­spect, we should have been more mod­u­lar about in­stalling the f lota­tion fine-grind sys­tem. In­stead, we com­mis­sioned ev­ery­thing in one f lick of the switch, so when things went wrong, we couldn’t fig­ure out where the prob­lem was,” Pre­to­rius says.

He ac­knowl­edges some com­pla­cency crept into the com­pany’s prac­tices af­ter sev­eral years of suc­cess­fully con­vert­ing DRDGold to a sur­face re-miner from its tra­di­tional ac­tiv­ity of deep, mar­ginal, un­der­ground gold min­ing.

Now, how­ever, the new f ine-grind tech­nol­ogy – es­sen­tially a cir­cuit that al­lows DRDGold im­proved re­cov­er­ies – is hum­ming along pretty well, help­ing

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