We focused on sustaining, developing and growing the mineral asset base through the employment of responsible and innovative technical management. The value extracted from the mineral assets is continuously challenged through mine planning, considering the evolving knowledge of the mineral asset geological complexities and its opportunities.
To contribute our efforts towards our greater sustainable growth and impact strategy, we have prioritised responsible mining through our early coal value strategy. The focus was to ensure that the exploitation strategies maximised value without compromising on the longer-term viability of the assets. At the beginning of 2020, the strategies were finalised and approved for the various business units in Exxaro. To ensure accurate execution and control, the plans were embedded in Exxaro's business processes through incorporation in the life of mine (LoM) plans, the business plans and budgets. The strategies have been included in the LoM plans for Grootegeluk and Belfast during the reporting year. The strategy for Grootegeluk entailed a pit-shell redesign to exclude high stripping and low-quality areas and to target high-value areas in the LoM plan. For Belfast, the strategy entailed a revision of the pit sequence, targeting the high-value areas earlier in the LoM plan.
Dorstfontein East mine has been operating as an opencast mine, since 2011, exploiting mainly coal seams S4 (S4U and S4L) and S2 (S2U and S2L) of the Witbank Coalfield. In the ensuing period, evaluation work identified underground Coal Reserves of both S4L and S2L. The S4L seam, with an average seam thickness of 3.8 metres (m), will produce an estimated Coal Reserve of 19.6 million tonnes (Mt) run of mine (RoM) delivering approximately 12 years of LoM. The S2L seam, affected by dolerite activity, will only produce 7.2Mt of RoM, unlocking an additional eight years of mine life. Both S4L and S2L can be exploited profitably using the bord and pillar extraction method. To expedite the underground exploitation, we investigated access via an adit from an existing highwall of one of the existing open pits. The study started in early 2019 with preparatory work and was initiated in early 2020, establishing two benches and removing material immediately in front of the highwall. Highwall design is such that only the portal face is supported to ensure highwall stability, and safety of personnel and machinery. First coal of S4L was accessed on 19 November 2020 and mining of S2L is scheduled to start around 2029. This initiative reflects both the innovative and exceptional technical abilities of our people.