Aussie miner conducts environmental studies for Malingunde project, Malawi
By Marcel Chimwala
ASX listed resources group, Sovereign Metals, has kick-started Environmental and Social Impact Studies (ESIA) for the Malingunde flake graphite project in Lilongwe, which include consultations with local stakeholders on the way-forward for the project.
Sovereign Metals is pursuing the Malingunde Project through its wholly owned subsidiary, McCourt Mining, and studies undertaken to date indicate that the resource can yield approximately 44,000 tonnes of graphite concentrate per annum over an initial life-of-mine (LOM) of 17 years.
Stakeholder Engagement Officer for Sovereign Metals, Annelle Lotter says in a statement that the ESIA process has three phases, namely compilation of the project brief, environmental scoping and ESIA phases.
The project brief has been submitted to the Environmental Affairs Department (EAD) and the environmental scoping phase has now commenced. The EAD indicated that an ESIA will be required,
The scoping phase of the study to run from December 2017 to March 2018 will include project announcement through distribution of the project document and some meetings with stakeholders, production of a Draft Scoping Report to be available in March 2018, meetings with stakeholders to be held early March 2018 to identify issues and concerns and production of a Final Scoping Report to be submitted to the EAD after stakeholder review and comments.
The ESIA phase scheduled for April to September 2018 will involve specialist assessments, production of Draft ESIA Report to be available in September 2018, meetings with stakeholders to be held early September 2018 to present findings from the ESIA, and submission of Final ESIA Report to the EAD.
The Malingunde Project is likely to have a range of impacts on the environment and the people living in the area.
The expected positive developments include creation of job opportunities, growth in the economy, improved infrastructure and social development.
However, some negative impacts may also be experienced including that some people may lose farmland or may have to be resettled, and the project may result in changes in the quality and quantity of water, levels of dust experienced, disturbance of vegetation and animals, and changes in noise and traffic levels may be experienced.
The specialists will investigate these impacts and develop measures and plans to manage the impacts to ensure that they are minimized,
Open pit mining with traditional excavator and haul trucks will be used to mine the ore at Malingunde but no drilling and blasting activities will be required for the operation as the material is relatively soft and suitable for free digging.
Mining will be undertaken in shallow open pits, with maximum depths of 25 m and maximum widths of approximately 150 m and once excavated, the ore will be loaded onto 40 tonne trucks and hauled from the pit to either the processing plant or if it is waste material, to the waste rock dumps.
After treating the ore in the plant (scrubbing and flotation), the tailings material will be pumped to the tailings storage facility site for final disposal.
The processed product will be transported on flatbed trucks by road over approximately 26 km to the Kanengo train station, from where it will be sent by rail to the port of Nacala in Mozambique for export.
The infrastructure on the mine site is likely to include: a number of long, shallow open pits trending in a northwest–southeast direction, tailings storage facility (TSF), waste rock dump (WRD), a low grade stockpile, ore processing plant, site roads providing access to the pits, processing plant and administration buildings, raw water storage dam, process water storage dam, site water management infrastructure and dirty water storage dams, workshops to service and maintain mining fleet and equipment, diesel fuel storage and filling stations for mine fleet and light vehicles, administration buildings, offices, ablution facilities and crib rooms.
A number of options are being investigated as part of the current pre-feasibility study, including different locations for the TSF, WRD and plant site.
It is planned as far as possible to locate the TSF, processing plant, workshops and other infrastructure to the northern extent of the project area outside of the Kamuzu II Reservoir watershed to minimize potential contamination issues.
The locations for the proposed infrastructure components as well as the various mining schedules being considered will have different technical requirements, as well as varying environmental and social impacts, and the preferred mining option will only be selected after all the options have been considered in detail.
Sovereign Metals Limited is currently conducting a number of technical studies, which will culminate in a feasibility study, to determine the viability of developing the natural flake graphite deposit at Malingunde.
Should the feasibility studies prove that mining is viable, and a decision is taken by Sovereign to proceed with the development of the mine, an application for a mining licence will be submitted to the Department of Mines.
In addition, environmental authorisation from the Affairs Department (EAD) will be required in terms of the Environment Management Act (EMA) before development of the project can proceed.
Sovereign aims to complete all studies towards the end of 2018 to enable them to decide on whether the mine will be developed or not in early 2019.
The primary end-market for flake (or crystalline) graphite is the refractory, foundries and crucible sector which consumed approximately 616 000 tonnes of flake graphite production in 2016.
The majority of flake graphite is used to produce magnesia-carbon bricks used in the steel industry but a growing use of graphite is in the production of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for laptops and cell phones.
Additionally, substantial increase in demand for graphite is expected in the future for the growing electric vehicles market.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 57 (January 2018).