THABAMETSI TIPPS THE SCALES
Exxaro has earmarked R2.8-billion in capital to develop the first phase of the 3.9 Mt/annum Thabametsi IPP (TIPP) Project.
A greenfields mine bordering the Grootegeluk Coal Mine in Lephalale, Thabametsi will supply coal to an independent power producer (IPP) on a farm neighbouring the Thabametsi mining right area. Several phases are planned for the mine development, with coal supply to the IPP being the first phase.
TIPP Phase 1 started in May 2017, with the construction of the enabling works. This entailed the construction of a bulk raw water pipeline, a bulk 33kV overhead powerline and perimeter fencing, which were all completed in November 2017.
The pipeline consists of a 11.7km bulk raw water pipeline network from Grootegeluk to the Thabametsi Project site, to supply raw water for construction and operational purposes. The pipeline will also supply water to the IPP power station during the construction period, until its permanent water pipeline is built.
The powerline ties into the Grootegeluk 33kV power ring main and entails an 8.8km overhead line to supply construction and operation power to Thabametsi coal mine, as well as construction power to the IPP power station, until its permanent powerlines are up.
A perimeter wall was erected around the Thabametsi Project site to fence it off into a separate legal responsibility area, under the Mine Health and Safety Act, and to ensure the project site is ready for construction once the notice to proceed (NTP) is received.
To make way for the construction of the water pipeline and powerline, the project had to request a permit to remove 122 identified protected trees. These included Acacia erioloba (Camelthorn/ Kameeldoring; Boscia albitrunca (Shepherds tree/Matopi) and Sclerocarya birrea subsp Africa (Marula). The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) granted the permit in September 2016 in terms of the National Forests Act, 1998 (Act No. 84 of 1998).
The TIPP1 Project team took great care to plot the large trees on the project blockplan and offices and other infrastructure were moved around to minimise the impact on the trees. The laydown areas and the construction gate were also moved to provide a green buffer zone that will be visually appealing for the rest of the mine’s life.
Toolbox talks and training ensured that the highlighted trees could be identified and avoided where possible. Through care and planning, the TIPP team have managed to leave most of the protected trees intact, and have only removed 61. This environmental achievement has been noted in EcoAfrica inspections and by DAFF - something the team is quite proud of.
The area for the Thabametsi coal mine spans across five farms in Lephalale, which means various applications were made - and granted – to implement the Thabametsi Grave Relocation Process (GRP). Exxaro appointed consultants as the specialist Heritage Practitioners to assist in the GRP implementation plan, and a local undertaker to execute the implementation.