Implats-Sibanye expansion project on track
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”.
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.