Govt pushes for PGM beneficiation

02 Feb, 2020 - 00:02 0 Views
Govt pushes for PGM beneficiation

The Sunday Mail

Ishemunyoro Chingwere
Business Reporter

Government is in talks with local platinum producers under the ambit of the Platinum Producers’ Association (PPA) for the establishment of platinum smelters as well as base and precious metal refineries. The talks are part of the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development’s plans for the mining sector to contribute towards the attainment of Vision 2030.

Zimbabwe is working towards attaining Upper Middle Income status in the next 10 years.

The Mining Ministry is already chasing a 2023 milestone for the mining sector to generate US$12 billion in annual exports.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando revealed this in Norton last Thursday when he officiated at the first box cut function which signalled the commencement of Great Dyke Investments (GDI)’s mine design at the Darwendale platinum project.

The Darwendale platinum project is a US$2 billion joint venture between Russia’s Vi Holdings and Zimbabwe’s Landela Mining Venture (Pvt) Ltd.

Its implementation was accelerated after President Mnangagwa visited Russia last year in search of investments to kick-start the country’s economic revival.

Minister Chitando said while Government was concerned with meeting its 2023 milestone in the short term, plans were afoot to further boost the mining sector’s economic footprint, with Vision 2030 in mind.

The minister’s sentiments are in sync with President Mnangagwa’s push for local mineral beneficiation and value addition so as to boost earnings and create more jobs.

One of the country’s three existing PGM mines —Unki Mine — last year launched a US$62 million smelter which has a 61 000 tonnes annual capacity and can meet the miner’s current output. However, it has the potential to be upgraded to meet future increased mine production.

The miners have in the past justified their indifference to beneficiation investments citing lack of viability concerns, especially given their production figures.

However, they have agreed on different expansion drives to meet Government’s 2023 target. Platinum is expected to contribute US$3 billion.

In this regard, Government has gone further to look beyond smelters. It has initiated discussion around the setting up of base and precious metal refineries.

“Part of the strategy of the 2030 vision and part of the value addition strategy is to ensure that for all the minerals (being mined in the country), there is value addition and beneficiation (before export),” said Minister Chitando.

“The platinum members have formed what is called the Platinum Producers’ Association (PPA) and we have said to them, as Government, we would like you to come up with a value addition strategy.

“Platinum value addition starts from the concentration to produce the concentrates, back to the smelter to produce matte, then base metal refinery to extract the base metals and then a precious metal refinery to extract the precious metals.

“When you now take new production from Great Dyke Investments, when you take the new production coming from Karo Resources and the expansion from some of the existing ones, there is sufficient mass for the establishment of base and precious metal refineries.

“I am pleased to say that as Government, we are working closely with the PPA to ensure that there is establishment of a base and precious metal refinery,” he said.

In their three-stage project implementation outline, GDI have already indicated that they would want to establish a smelter in their second stage of implementation, which is expected to start after 2022.

GDI chief executive officer Mr Alex Ivanov told this publication (See Q &A on Page B4) that the miner plans to increase its production from an initial estimate of about 180 000 tonnes of concentrate per year to a stage where production can justify the setting up of a smelter.

Mr Ivanov spoke glowingly of the Darwendale project, describing it as one that will change the face of Norton and also position Zimbabwe as a key global platinum player.

“There are basically three stages of production which we are working on,” said Mr Ivanov.

“On the first stage we seek to achieve 180 000 tonnes concentrate per annum. On the second stage we will increase production to a stage where we will start to build our own smelter. However, for now, I would want to limit our view to the first stage because it’s a very big investment and it takes time.

“For now it’s not best to talk much about it (smelter) because it is still in the investigation process,” said Mr Ivanov.

Minister Chitando advised that there were other platinum investors on the horizon and these could further boost the country’s PGM output.

“In platinum, we are going to achieve over 50 tonnes per year by 2023. There are a number of interventions, Karo Resources is coming on board, Great Dyke Investments and the Todal shaft are coming on board.

“We have other investments coming on stream but these are not captured in the US$3 billion by 2023. The long and short of it is that Zimbabwe is poised to be a major force in platinum production. Our being here is part of the journey,” said Minister Chitando.

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