NORTHAM Platinum said yesterday there had been a delay in the installation of a permanent power supply to its Booysendal mine in Mpumalanga after an "unauthorised land occupation" on nearby farm Schaapkraal 42JT.

This is a setback for the fourth-largest platinum miner by market value on the JSE, as Northam is at an advanced stage of developing the mining operation, which is on the eastern limb of the Bushveld Complex.

"Eskom's subcontractors were being prevented from completing the installation of a power line from the national Eskom grid to the Booysendal mine," the company's statement said. It declined to comment further on the delay, but said that together with Eskom it was taking steps to minimise any further delays.

Earlier this year, Northam said infrastructure construction at Booysendal was on track and that mine construction was at an advanced stage, with box-cuts completed. Booysendal has reserves of 3-million ounces and holds an estimated 103-million-ounce resource. About R785m was spent on the mining project during the previous financial year, and an additional R1,8m in capital expenditure has been earmarked for this financial year.

On the surface of the mine, bulk earthworks and civil construction have largely been completed, with the focus now on mechanical and electrical construction of plant infrastructure and the erection of mine buildings.

Northam is planning to mine 187000 tons a month, and to ramp up production to 150000 tons a month.

Meanwhile, Aquarius Platinum has not given a clear indication about its plan to acquire the Booysendal southern properties. Aquarius agreed to buy Northam's Booysendal South for R1,2bn, which, combined with another transaction last month, is set to boost Aquarius's resource base by 50%.

maotom@bdfm.co.za