Impala Platinum is to expand processing capacity at Zimplats in order to support a US$290 million investment at Zimbabwe’s largest platinum mine.
Development of two Zimplats mines, Bimha and Mupani, will add another 180,000 ounces, and this extra output will need extra concentrator capacity, officials say.
“That (investment) will add another 180 000 ounces in a shallow, mechanised, low-risk operation. The cost involved with that is R4.3 billion (about US$290 million) over the next four to five years,” Implats CEO Nico Muler said in a call with press on Thursday.
Implats COO Gerhard Potgieter said the Zimplats smelter has been operating at 6.5 million-tonne capacity a year from four mines and its three concentrator plants. With the added output from the Bimha and Mupani mines, the company will need more capacity for processing.
“So, the expansion of Zimplats must come also with the need for further beneficiation capacity. As the new Mupani mine ramps up, it will be the fifth mine and, together the Bimha mine, it will be growing into a significant size of the production so much so that this current project will take it to 6.7 million tonnes,” said Potgieter.
“So, the first thing we have to do is to provide a fourth concentrator unit at the operation, so that we can concentrate those tonnes. Unfortunately, the smelter at Zimplats is at full capacity, which means that the first step from that would be those concentrates having to come to our Rustenburg operations and be treated here.”
Implats says it is also looking into investing in additional smelter capacity, which is the next stage of the processing chain.
“Longer term, we’ve acknowledged the fact that we are constrained as far as our smelting capacity in Zimbabwe is concerned, and we are busy with studies for a further furnace and the sulphur abatement that goes with it. It’s quite a substantial capital investment to be made and we’ve started with the feasibility studies on that. It’s early days, but we’ve acknowledged the fact that we need more capacity in Zimbabwe,” Potgieter said.
Previously, Zimplats said Mupani is expected to have a life-of-mine of 34 years, and increase Zimplats’ resource by three million ounces. Full production is expected in 2025, the company said last year.
Bimha, which once accounted for half of Zimplats production, collapsed in 2014, cutting some 70 000 of pgm output. The company had to re-develop the mine while it switched to open cast to recover output.