BNC recruits as operations resume

HARARE - Bindura Nickel Corporation (BNC) has embarked on a massive recruitment drive as the mining company gears for full-scale resumption of operations after a four-year breather.

BNC’s Trojan Mine, a smelter and a refinery have been on care and maintenance since September 2008 as a result of a collapse in the global nickel prices and the country’s harsh economic environment.

However, following dollarisation and an improved operating environment in Zimbabwe coupled with a recovery in the global nickel price, BNC’s parent company Mwana Africa plc said it was now time to restart operations.

In September, BNC completed a restructuring and recapitalisation process that involved a $23 million rights issue and placing which allowed the company to restart its Trojan Mine operations.

The Mwana Africa-owned company is currently recruiting diesel plant fitters, surveyors, planned maintenance officers, engineering forepersons, host technicians, chemists, maintenance fitters, geostatisticians and electricians among others.

BNC chief operations officer Batsirai Manhando could neither deny say when operations will be in fully operational but referred all questions to managing director David Murangari, who could not be reached for comment.

However, sources close to the developments say that production resumed on the October 1, 2012 with a successful 12-hour underground mining shift.

“The target is to have full-blown operations by year-end and judging by the way things are happening here, the target is easily achievable.

The mining operations are going to continue until March 2013 when the first concentrate is expected to be produced,” said the source.

Analysts feel that although the price of nickel on the international market has stabilised, the recurrence of price volatilities such as those experienced from the first to the third quarter of 2012 can be a risk to nickel miners.

This would pause a big challenge to operations at BNC due to the current economic and operating conditions in Zimbabwe.

Analysts feel that the operating environment in Zimbabwe, although it has improved markedly, has a lot to improve on for it to help in making the resuscitation of the project viable.

“The resumption of operations is a positive move towards the reviving of the mining sector in Zimbabwe.
“With expectations of resuscitating production at other major operations like NewZim Steel, Mhangura copper mine and Kamativi tin mine which have been reported to be at advanced stages of negotiations with some investors, the projected growth in the mining sector might be realised soon,” said one analyst.

The Trojan restart will also see the development of the Hunters Road nickel project within the Gweru-Midlands South Greenstone belt in central Zimbabwe.

A successful exploration exercise on the deposit in May 2006 indicated resource of over 37 million tonnes of ore with over 200 000 tonnes of nickel which will be very significant in future expansion projects for BNC.

Mwana Africa chief executive Kalaa Mpinga recently said operations had recommenced with the objective of producing concentrate for sale by second quarter of 2013.

BNC has an offtake agreement with Glecore International who will buy all the nickel concentrate produced by Trojan.

“I am very encouraged by the early results from the resource drilling below 37 level at Trojan.

“The nickel grades are better than expected and underpin our confidence in the quality and future prospects of the mine which is currently in the process of being restarted,” he said.

For the past four years, BNC largely concentrated on raising funds to keep its plant equipment in an operational state.

The care and maintenance was designed to preserve the condition of existing infrastructure to reduce the cost and risk of returning to operations.

The programme included dewatering of the mines, periodic tests of key machinery and monitoring of major plant structures. - John Kachembere

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