Free State operations


The Harmony Free State operations are located on the south-western corner of the Witwatersrand Basin, between the towns of Allanridge, Welkom, Theunissen and Virginia. The basin, situated on the Kaapvaal Craton, has been filled by a 6km thick succession of sedimentary rocks, which extends laterally for hundreds of kilometres.

The Free State goldfield is divided into two sections, cut by the north-south striking De Bron fault. This major structure has a downward vertical displacement of about 1 500m in the region of Bambanani, as well as a lateral shift of 4km. This lateral shift can allow a reconstruction of the orebodies of Unisel to the west of the De Bron and Masimong to the east. A number of other major faults (Stuirmanspan, Dagbreek, Arrarat and Eureka) lie parallel to the De Bron fault.

To the west of the De Bron fault, current operating mines are Target, Tshepong, Phakisa, Unisel, Bambanani and Joel. Dips of the reef are mostly towards the east, averaging 30 degrees but become steeper approaching the De Bron fault. To the east of the fault lies Masimong mine. These reefs mostly dip towards the west at 20 degrees, although Masimong is structurally complex and dips of up to 40 degrees have been measured. Between these two blocks lie the uplifted Horst block of West Rand Group sediments with no reef preserved.

The western margin area is bound by synclines and reverse thrust faults and is structurally complex. Towards the south and east, reefs sub-crop against overlying strata, eventually cutting out against the Karoo to the east of the lease area.

Most of the mineral resource tends to be concentrated in reef bands located on one or two distinct unconformities. A minority of the mineral resource is located on other unconformities. Mining that has taken place is mostly deep-level underground mining, exploiting the narrow, generally shallow dipping tabular reefs.

The Basal Reef is the most common reef horizon and is mined at all shafts except Target 1 and Joel. It varies from a single pebble lag to channels of more than 2m thick. It is commonly overlain by shale, which thickens northwards. Tshepong has resorted to undercutting its mining panels to reduce the effect of shale dilution.

The second major reef is the Leader Reef, 15m to 20m above the Basal Reef. This is mined at Unisel to the south. Further north, it becomes poorly developed with erratic grades. The reef consists of multiple conglomerate units, separated by thin quartzitic zones, often totalling up to 4m thick. A selected mining cut on the most economic horizon is often undertaken.

The B Reef is a highly channelised orebody located 140m stratigraphically above the Basal Reef. Because of its erratic nature, it has only been mined at Masimong, Tshepong, Target 2 and Target 3 shafts. Within the channels, grades are excellent, but this reduces to almost nothing outside the channels. Consequently, these shafts have undertaken extensive exploration to locate these pay channels.

The A Reef is also a highly channelised reef, located some 40m above the B Reef and is only mined at Target 3 shaft, within an extensive channel that lies along the western margin from Nyala to Lorraine. It consists of multiple conglomerate bands of up to 4m thick and a selected mining cut is usually required to optimise the orebody.

Joel mine, 30km south of Welkom, is the only Harmony Free State operation to mine the Beatrix Reef. This reef varies from a single-pebble lag to a multiple conglomerate, often showing mixing of the reef with some of the overlying lower-grade VS5 (mixed pebble conglomerate) material. None of the other reefs are present this far south, having sub-cropped against the Beatrix Reef.

The Target operations are at the northern extent of the Free State goldfields, some 20km north of Welkom. The reefs currently exploited are the Elsburg-Dreyerskuil conglomerates, which form a wedge-shaped stacked package, comprising 35 separate reef horizons, often separated by quartzite beds. The Elsburg Reefs are truncated by an unconformity surface at the base of the overlying Dreyerskuil member. Below the sub-crop, the Elsburg dips steeply to the east, with dips becoming progressively shallower down dip. Close to the sub-outcrop, the thickness of the intervening quartzites reduces, resulting in the Elsburg Reefs coalescing to form composite reef packages that are exploited by massive mining techniques at Target mine. The Dreyerskuil also consists of stacked reefs dipping shallowly to the east. These reefs tend to be less numerous, but more laterally extensive than the underlying Elsburg Reefs.

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