Im­plats-Sibanye ex­pan­sion project on track

The Star Early Edition - - COMPANIES - Tawanda Karombo

IMPALA Plat­inum (Im­plats) and Sibanye Gold’s joint ven­ture plat­inum mine in Zim­babwe, Mi­mosa, is con­tin­u­ing with its on-reef ex­pan­sion project, al­though tar­geted pro­duc­tion for 2017 will be lower than that of the pre­vi­ous year.

Share­hold­ers in the project aban­doned a plan to sink a new shaft at the mine, with sources say­ing the change of strat­egy was mo­ti­vated by cap­i­tal ra­tioning ow­ing to sup­pressed com­mod­ity prices and an op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment deemed less con­ducive for high cap­i­tal projects.

Im­plats also owns Zim­plats, the big­gest min­ing op­er­a­tion in the coun­try, while An­glo Plat­inum runs the Unki mine, also in Zim­babwe.

An­glo Plat­inum said yes­ter­day pro­duc­tion from the Unki mine in­creased 7 per­cent to 19 900 ounces, “driven by in­creased tons milled and higher ore grade.

Mi­mosa is tap­ping into the $30 mil­lion (R400m) cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture for the cur­rent year to boost the on-reef mine ex­pan­sion project. The mine is also grap­pling to meet Zim­babwe gov­ern­ment ex­pec­ta­tions for a re­fin­ery fa­cil­ity.

The com­pany has said its smelter project “is cur­rently at bank­able fea­si­bil­ity study level”, de­spite indi­ca­tions from sources that other op­tions, such as us­age of other ex­ist­ing smelters by other com­pa­nies, are be­ing ex­plored.

“Mi­mosa has been on a slow and steady ex­pan­sion year by year, with ac­tual ton­nage ris­ing from 2 324 429 tons in 2012 to 2 640 893 tons in 2016 with a bud­geted ton­nage of 2 632 978 tons in 2017,” Win­ston Chi­tando, the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Mi­mosa, said.

He ex­plained that fund­ing for the mine’s ex­pan­sion pro­gramme was be­ing “taken care of on the an­nual aver­age cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture pro­gramme of about $30m”.

Cut back

Knowl­edge­able sources, how­ever, said fund­ing for the ex­pan­sion pro­gramme has had to be cut back as share­hold­ers in the mine con­tain costs.

Chi­tando ad­mit­ted that there had been a shift in cap­i­tal and op­er­at­ing ex­pen­di­ture for the cur­rent year, ow­ing to chal­leng­ing ground con­di­tions.

He did not pro­vide more de­tails on this.

Other mines in Zim­babwe, in­clud­ing the Bimha mine, op­er­ated by Zim­plats, have en­coun­tered chal­lenges with their min­ing ground, and this had cul­mi­nated in the par­tial col­lapse of the mine.

“Due to in­creas­ingly chal­leng­ing ground con­di­tions at Mi­mosa mines to­wards the western limb of the ore body, op­er­a­tions are mov­ing slowly from be­ing semi-mech­a­nised to be­ing mech­a­nised in ef­forts to avoid the risk of in­jur­ing peo­ple. All these im­prove­ments come at a cost,” Chi­tando said.

In Jan­uary 2016, Mi­mosa recorded a fa­tal­ity when an un­der­ground ma­chine op­er­a­tor was struck on the head by a drill steel.

The pre­vi­ous year, an­other fa­tal­ity – when a face-prepa­ra­tion su­per­vi­sor was in­volved in an un­der­ground ac­ci­dent – was recorded.

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