Lonmin‘s Marikana platinum mine is located near Brits in the Marikana district, approximately 40km east of Rustenberg in the North West Province of South Africa.

Lonmin is one of the world’s biggest primary producers of platinum group metals (PGM) and has been engaged in mining operations at Marikana since 1980s through two of its subsidiaries, Western Platinum and Eastern Platinum.

Marikana accounts for 95% of Lonmin’s PGM output.

In August 2012, the Marikana mine workers organised an intense week-long protest demanding pay hike, which culminated in police firing on 16 August that left 34 mineworkers dead, 78 seriously injured and 250 arrested.

Lonmin officially halted production at the Marikana platinum mine on 14 August and resumed a few months later.

Marikana platinum mine acquisition

Sibanye-Stillwater, one of the biggest gold miners in South Africa, proposed to takeover Lonmin in 2017. Both the companies signed an agreement for the same in December 2017 and plan to complete the transaction by the end of 2018.

Sibanye-Stillwater will become the owner and operator of the Marikana platinum mine as well as Lonmin’s existing processing facilities, upon completion of the acquisition.

Sibanye-Stillwater also acquired Rustenburg Platinum Mines from Anglo American as well as Aquarius South Africa, the owner of Kroondal platinum mine, in 2016.

The consolidation of Rustenburg Platinum Mines, Aquarius South Africa and Lonmin’s Marikina operations will turn Sibanye-Stillwater into a fully-integrated PGM producer in South Africa.

Marikana platinum mine geology

Lonmin’s Marikana mining rights are situated in the southern part of the western limb of the Bushveld Complex in South Africa. The Bushveld Complex is a layered intrusion occupying 66,000km² and estimated to host more than 70% of global PGM recourses.

Marikana mine’s ore bodies form part of the Merensky Reef and UG2 Reef over a strike length of approximately 27km.

The UG2 Reef lies between 130m and 210m below the Merensky Reef and contains higher grade PGM resources.

Platinum group mineral reserves at Marikana mine

The PGMs produced at the mine include platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold (4E). The proven and probable ore reserves were estimated to be 227.2 million tonnes (Mt) grading 4.09g/t 4E, as of December 2017. Contained ore is estimated to be 29.9 million ounces (Moz) of 4E including 18.1Moz of platinum.

The measured, indicated and inferred resources were estimated to be 714.7Mt grading 4.91g/t 4E  and containing 112.7Moz of 4E including 67.8Moz of platinum.

Mining and processing for Marikana platinum mine

Marikana is predominantly an underground mining operation involving limited opencast mining.

The mine is currently being operated with ten active shafts and inclines in the Bushveld Igneous Complex.

The mine’s Generation 1 shafts such as Hossy, Newman, Pandora E3 Joint Venture and W1, East 1 and East 2 shafts are nearing the end of their lives, whereas newer shafts such as K3, Rowland, 4B and Saffy are the highest producing shafts. The K4 shaft has been put under care and maintenance.

The ore produced from the mine is sent to Lonmin’s smelter and concentrating facility at Marikana for further processing.

Production from Marikana platinum mine

A total of 9,535t of PGM ore was milled from the Marikana platinum mine in 2017. The mine produced 1.17Moz of PGMs including 609,354oz of platinum, 282,246oz of palladium, 86,254oz of rhodium and 15,171oz of gold in the same year.