Gamsberg, part of Vedanta’s Zinc International SA operations, started first-phase production in 2018 and the project is expected to act as an anchor for the company’s ambitious growth plans, adding as much as 600,000 tons of zinc to the company’s annual production in its final phase. In the stark and arid Northern Cape, 60km from Pofadder, in South Africa lies the world’s largest undeveloped zinc resource.
Vedanta Zinc International is a subsidiary of Vedanta, a diversified resources company in India. It is one of the largest foreign direct investors in India and aims to become one of the largest in South Africa as well.
Vedanta bought Anglo American’s zinc assets in 2011, which included Black Mountain Mine, the developer of Gamsberg, Skorpion zinc operation in Namibia, and the Lisheen zinc mine in Ireland that is being closed.
Exploration drilling by Vedanta allowed it to extend the life of the zinc assets and has led to the development of Gamsberg, SA’s largest recent mining project with an investment of $400m.
In 2017 Vedanta Zinc International produced 160,000 tons but as phase one kicks off at Gamsberg, it is expected to add 250,000 tons to the company’s annual production from its open-pit operations. Phase two will bring production at Gamsberg up to 450,000 tons and phase three, which requires more exploration but would involve underground mining, could bring it up to 600,000 tons per annum.
“If we get this to work in SA, it will become one of the largest zinc complexes in the world,” says Vedanta Zinc International CEO Deshnee Naidoo.
Vedanta Zinc International also aims to become the world’s most sustainable, integrated mining company, capable of producing 1-million tons of zinc.
The Gamberg project has already overcome a number of challenges. As soon as the project broke ground in 2015, zinc prices began to fall but adjustments were made and Vedanta forged ahead.
Located in one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots, Vedanta Zinc International had to relocate 85,000 plants and acquired a habitat of 12,900 hectares as part of a biodiversity offset agreement.