Zimplats commences work on refinery

HARARE - Zimbabwe's largest platinum producer, Zimplats, has commenced work to refurbish a base metal refinery (BMR) in line with government’s policy on beneficiation.

Muchadeyi Masunda, the group’s chairman, on Friday said the procurement of long lead items for the BMR as well as mass balancing and capacity confirmation on the preferred flow sheet have commenced.

“The feasibility study on the acid plant, for sulphur dioxide abatement, has commenced. Installation of the acid plant is scheduled over three years starting in 2016,” he said.

This comes as Impala Platinum (Implats) — the world’s second largest platinum producer and major shareholder in Zimplats — recently took a strategic decision to refurbish the BMR at Selous as a crucial first step in a multi-phased plan for local beneficiation.

The initial decision was to set up a new refinery plant at a cost of $3,2 billion, but according to Zimplats the refurbishments will cost the company nearly $192 million.

On completion, expected within two years, the refinery will process 270 000 tonnes of ore per month. Masunda said the refurbishment of the existing refinery, which was set up by BHP but failed to work because of technical difficulties and has been on care-and-maintenance, was consistent with the company’s broad objective of aligning to key national policies and objectives.

Zimbabwe, which has the world’s second largest platinum reserves after South Africa, has given miners two years to localise platinum group metal refinery, which is currently done in the southern neighbouring country.

“Once executed and fully operational, this initiative will have a positive impact on downstream industries,” said Masunda adding that the company would continue to play a positive part in helping resuscitate the Zimbabwean economy.

The platinum refining process goes through two significant stages; in the base metal refinery — which separates base metals such as nickel and copper — and then the precious metal refinery which processes the various platinum group metals and gold to high levels of purity. The major platinum miners in Zimbabwe such as Implats, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Aquarius Platinum broadly support the government proposal to build a new platinum refinery by 2016 but executives say that annual platinum output should reach 500 000 ounces annually to make the refinery viable. 

Output from Zimbabwe rose to an all-time production record of 430 000 ounces in 2013, up from 340 000 the previous year.

RioZim, another mining industry player, said it was considering plans to upgrade its Empress nickel refinery to process the base metal elements in platinum group metals.

Mwana Africa’s Bindura Nickel Corporation has also hinted at plans to modify its smelter and refinery into platinum refining facilities.

Concerns have also been raised by various stakeholders in the country on the availability of adequate power supplies to run a power-intensive refinery smoothly.


Comments (2)

Now, we are talking. This should just be an interim step towards setting up of a regional integrated facility to manufacture vehicle exhausts for the SADC, Chinese and global motor industry. Other down stream industries in computer & ITC sectors will naturally follow. How about creating a big jewellery industry to suit the skins of Asians from our value added PGMs?

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