Heart of iron
Iron ore production has become gradually more important to Assmang (abbreviated from Associated Manganese Mines of South Africa). Founded in 1935, until comparatively recently it specialised in manganese extraction; today it has three operating divisions based on chrome, manganese and iron ore, the last of which is being dramatically extended, as John O’Hanlon learned.
Assmang’s principal iron ore mine at Beeshoek in the Northern Cape, about 100 miles north-west of Kimberley, started life as a manganese asset, according to Willem Grobbelaar, Assmang’s divisional manager of Iron Ore Operations. Grobbelaar has spent many of his 30 years with Assmang at Beeshoek, and it was always known that there was iron ore there, he says. “It was in the early 1950s that Assmang made the decision to develop iron ore mining at Beeshoek and export it. The operation started at a low level, around a million tonnes annually, but it has been expanded over the years and in 2008 we shipped 6.7 million tonnes.”