The new Tshipi Borwa mine in the Northern Cape took a step closer to production on Tuesday when its parent company, Tshipi e Ntle Manganese Mining, announced the signing of a R1,35bn open-pit mining contract with Aveng Moolmans, one of Africa’s largest open-pit mining contractors.

Tshipi Borwa, which will employ about 500 people, is a new open-pit manganese mine located adjacent to Samancor Manganese’s Mamatwan mine in the Northern Cape.

Mine construction started this year and the first ore is expected to be produced in the second half of next year.

Mokgosi Nkoana, general manager at Tshipi, said the contract was for a 54-month period and included the drilling, blasting and hauling of the manganese ore.

“Preparatory work will start immediately and pre-stripping will be under way by the end of the month,” he said.

Mr Nkoana said the awarding of the contract to a South African company was in line with Tshipi e Ntle’s policy of using local suppliers when possible.

“We are also making good progress with the new load-out station and siding we are constructing to ensure we meet all Transnet’s requirements to be linked into the national rail network, and we are about to take the first steps to reaching the manganese ore that lies 70m below the Kalahari surface,” Mr Nkoana said.

Tshipi Borwa is majority owned by Ntsimbintle Mining, which is led by Saki Macozoma, and OM Holdings, in partnership with Jupiter Mining.

Both OM Holdings and Jupiter Mining are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The Northern Cape’s John Taolo Gaetsewe Developmental Trust is also a significant shareholder in the project.