The Northern Cape Province of South Africa is host to the Kalahari Manganese Field (KMF). The northern portion of the KMF hosts high-grade manganese referred to as Wessels’ type ore and is mined mostly from underground operations. WorleyParsons TWP is currently involved with the development of a ventilation shaft for one of these mines. The main challenge is to develop through the unconsolidated Kalahari material and weathered portion of the Karoo formation. These formations are preserved very erratically over short distances. A lack of understanding of the unique challenges presented for developing shafts in this area has resulted in the failed development of a shaft on an adjacent property and over-expended budgets on others.
The renowned red sand of the Kalahari forms the top several tens of metres and overlies a horizon of gravels and calcrete that pose seasonally variable water ingress problems. A very stiff red clay horizon is then intersected. The Red Clay is prone to swellling during excavation and has been the main stumbling block on previous constructions. The standard approach has been to develop non-stop through this layer. The red clay is underlain by another horizon of calcrete, gravel and conglomerate that marks the bottom of the formation. The top of the Dwyka Tillite (Karoo Formation) is usually highly weathered and has a distinctive yellow colour. The weathered tillite is highly susceptible to drying and becomes friable. At reef-intersection, the combination of subhorizontal bedding and joints with the dominant subvertical faulting results in potential wedge failures in the manganese and ironstone units.
This paper describes the geotechnical issues identified during the planning of the ventilation shaft and the risks associated with development through the Kalahari and weathered Karoo Formations. A new approach to developing ventilation shafts in overcoming these challenges is recommended.
Steenkamp, N C, 2014. Challenges of
developing a ventilation shaft in Kalahari and Karoo formations, Northern Cape,
South Africa, in Proceedings 12th AusIMM Underground Operators’ Conference
2014 , pp 81–88 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).