Platinum miners to invest $50m in 2017

HARARE - Zimbabwe's platinum miners are set to invest over $50 million on expansion projects in a development anticipated to increase the metal’s annual output, the Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe (CoMZ) said.

The miners’ body said the three companies currently operating platinum mines in Zimbabwe — Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Aquarius Platinum (Aquarius) — were looking into vast expansion work around the metal’s local beneficiation.

“With regards to expansion projects, all producers indicated that they will spend on expansion projects in 2017 at estimated costs exceeding $50 million. These projects are expected to lead to increased platinum output.

“In line with the platinum producers’ plan to beneficiate the platinum group metals (PGMs), all producers are currently working on beneficiation projects at various stages of implementation,” CoMZ said in its 2016 sector report.

As part of projects, the miners are in the process of constructing a $131 million base metal refinery set to be commissioned this year along with an 8,5 megawatt electric smelter due to be completed next year and a joint smelter.

This comes as government again postponed a 15 percent tax on exports of un-beneficiated PGMs to 2018 so that miners can redouble efforts on building refinery projects.

Owned by Implats, Zimplats, the country’s biggest platinum miner, has been exporting a semi-processed matte of the precious metal for final refinery in South Africa, although it is upgrading its Selous Metallurgical Complex.

Amplats has also said it is investing in a smelter at Shurugwi where it operates its Unki platinum mine.

Expansion work is also expected to increase at Zimplats following an announcement by the company that a new platinum mine will triple reserves and allow the miner to replace production from the Rukodzi and Ngwarati Mines once they become depleted.

Meanwhile, platinum output is expected to reach a peak of 14,5 tonnes in 2016, up from 12,6 tonnes recorded in 2016.

“In the outlook, platinum output is expected to increase (100 percent) as all producers are projecting output increases in 2017.

“Survey findings reveal that the sector’s average 4E (platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold) head grade for 2016 was at 3,42 grammes/tonne (g/t), compared to 3,37g/t in 2015. The grades are projected to increase to 3,52g/t in 2017,” the chamber pointed out.

At the moment, the PGMs sector is operating at full capacity, the same situation from 2015 and likely to continue this year.

The chamber’s research also showed that cash operating cost per platinum ounce declined from $1 551 in 2015, to $1 197 in 2016 as all producers continued to rationalise costs in 2016.

Platinum revenue increased to $398 million in 2016, from $381 million in 2015.

“Survey findings show that profitability in the PGMs industry improved in 2016 as two of the platinum producers recorded profit in 2016, compared to only one in 2015,” CoMZ said.

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