Exxaro's world-class Coal Resource portfolio comprises fully and jointly owned operations and projects in South Africa and Australia. Our fully owned operations and projects in South Africa are in the large and highly prospective Waterberg coalfield in Limpopo and the more mature Highveld and Witbank coalfields in Mpumalanga.
Our Coal Resource and Coal Reserve estimation strategy focuses on providing trustworthy estimates by employing responsible and innovative technical management principles. Our Competent Persons are the custodians of the mineral assets and are therefore accountable for ensuring the integrity of our Resource and Reserve estimates by applying pioneering technology and trusted knowledge and experience. Our projects, operations and expansion initiatives are built on these trusted and assured Coal Resources and Coal Reserves, creating a platform for the LoMP from which annual business plans are derived. The Mineral Resource managers of each operation are the custodians of the LoM and ensure professional execution of the business plans, stimulating profitability and return on investment while guarding against irresponsible exploitation.
The early value coal exploitation plans supporting our Sustainable Growth and Impact strategy are implemented at all our operations. Our technical teams now focus on value optimisation within the framework of these plans. The effort is clearly demonstrated in the application and/or update of new geological models and subsequent updates of mine plans at five of our operations.
On-mine exploration campaigns conducted during 2021/2022 targeted areas of geological complexity, explored for additional mining ground in facing life extension project delays, and enhanced our level of confidence of the geology in the short to medium term and LoMPs.
New information at our flagship Grootegeluk mine was crucial in updating the 2022 LoMP, compiled with OCCS software. Several significant achievements with this new plan were reached. Strategic backfill is a vital aspect in the effective execution of Grootegeluk. New information distinguishing between the various overburden material types contributed to integrating the backfill and mining activities into a consolidated plan, enabling detailed material destination scheduling. The plan made provision for a sump strategy for effective in-pit water management which addressed a historical operational challenge within the large open pit. The plan includes consolidation and redefinition of certain waste mining benches based on economical and practical considerations. This change improved mining activity sequencing to ensure the continuous supply of suitable material to all specified destinations. The conclusion of the integrated plan is an exceptional achievement for Exxaro. As outlined last year, we evaluated the potential of the Thabametsi mining right, a large Coal Resource adjacent to our Grootegeluk mine, after the cancellation of the associated independent power producer (IPP) project. Exxaro has compiled a consolidation plan which will be submitted to the applicable authorities for approval.
New exploration information was valuable at our Matla mine, where three mine expansion projects are in various stages of implementation. These development projects contain an estimated 83% of Matla Coal Reserves. Timely funding and execution are vital to enable suitable run of mine (RoM), as the impact of current delays is demonstrated in this year's decrease in production figures. In two mining areas, horizontal and vertical exploration drilling contributed to identifying additional ground for mining, while project delays were addressed. Mining is continuing at Mine 3 Seam 4 (S4) (initially earmarked to cease mining in 2018) and Mine 2 Seam 2 (S2) (initially earmarked to cease mining in 2020), because the team applied innovative exploration and short-term mine planning to identify additional mining blocks under challenging conditions.
Studies to fully optimise the licence to mine area are progressing well at our Belfast mine, with the conclusion of exploration work to the north of the current operations. Work is ongoing to complete the exploitation plan and to obtain applicable environmental and access approvals. Production at the mine came under pressure in the second half of the year due to challenges relating to the performance of the mining business partner. We are addressing these challenges.
We obtained new information during the exploration campaign, specifically after approval was received to drill the Rooipan area, that contributed to the review and update of the Mafube LoMP. The update considers the practical and economic viability of Reserve areas previously excluded, as well as the Rooipan area, for which legislative submissions have been completed.
Progress on studies at our high-value coking coal Moranbah South project, located in the Bowen Basin, eastern Australia is on track. The joint venture (JV) conducted several surface-to-seam and vertical drill holes as well as an airborne-magnetic geophysical survey to validate the geological structural interpretation and to enhance the coal quality characterisation. Ongoing exploration information will contribute to the exploitation plan we are developing for this project.
We continuously strive to enhance the level of estimation and reporting of Resources and Reserves, committed to our governance structures and associated assurance processes. In 2022, we conducted internal reviews during the update of the geological and structural models at three of our operations (two models were concluded in 2021, although not used) as well as during the update of five LoMPs. We noted findings and implemented and signed off on corrective measures before proceeding with any subsequent estimation processes. We conducted technical reviews on development projects with specific focus on the estimation that underpins these projects. We reviewed the Grootegeluk alternative mining solution (AMS), Belfast's pit 4 and life expansion and the Moranbah South project. Two comprehensive audits on Coal Resource estimation were conducted on the Belfast and Grootegeluk operations. No findings that could materially impact our estimates were reported. We however noted and are implementing actions to address minor findings to increase the effectiveness of our estimation practices and compliance to our internal procedures. PwC conducted an audit on our internal Resource and Reserve estimation process and no critical findings were reported. We submitted a summary of our exploration information for the reporting year to the Council for Geosciences considering the recently promulgated Geosciences Act regulations in March 2022.
Figure 2: Exxaro's attributable Coal Resources and Coal Reserves
Our total attributable Coal Resource decreased by 1%, primarily due to mining that was offset by new exploration information acquired at our various operations. On-mine drilling increased the level of geological confidence, resulting in material movements from Inferred to Indicated and to the higher confidence Measured category.
Our total attributable Coal Reserve increased by 1%, primarily as a result of updated LoMPs.
Two operations reported material changes in total Coal Resources and/or Coal Reserves. A ~23% increase in total Coal Resources at Mafube mine is the result of new exploration information and the movement of the Rooipan area from Inventory to Coal Resources based on environmental approvals received to drill within this area. The significant increase (~144%) in the total Coal Reserves is the result of an updated LoMP that includes the MGF and MGA Reserve areas, as well as the Rooipan area after consideration of the successful submission of the integrated water use licence (IWUL) application. The Reserves within Rooipan are reported as Probable, pending the approval of the IWUL application.
Figure 3: Exxaro's performance
A 15% decrease in Coal Resources at Leeuwpan mine is due to mining and disposals resulting from re-interpretation and subsequent reclassification of coal material outside the LoMP during the geological modelling process.
For all other operations, other than normal LoM depletion, no material changes to the total attributable Coal Resource and Coal Reserve estimates are reported. We do not know of any pertinent technical and operational risks or other material conditions, other than those declared in the Ancillary section, that may impact the company's ability to mine or explore.
Figure 4: Locations of Matla projects
Figure 5: Grootegeluk LoM