JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Platinum mining company Northam Platinum on Friday elaborated on its growth projects that are timed to counter a lack of replacement investment over the past decade across the primary production industry, which is expected to lead to under supply.
Northam Platinum CEO Paul Dunne told mining analysts and journalists at the company’s presentation of half-year results that it believed that demand for platinum group products (PGMs) would continue to grow in line with world gross domestic product.
He contended that primary production out of South Africa had peaked in 2006, when more than five-million ounces of platinum had been supplied.
“Today, we're producing, if we’re lucky, four-million ounces of platinum out of the ground. It’s been in continual decline since 2006 and there’s no evidence whatsoever that the decline will not continue because we simply haven’t invested,” Dunne contended.
Northam thus had an opportunity to position itself for 2020, when it would be able to produce in a much stronger pricing environment.
The JSE-listed company's growth plans involve incorporating the newly acquired Everest mine into two Booysendal project components with a combined capacity of 500 000 oz.
It outlined the project components as the Booysendal Merensky project, which would help to boost output from the 160 000 oz/y at recently completed Booysendal North platinum mine; and the Booysendal South project, formerly the Everest mine, all on the eastern limb of the platinum-rich Bushveld Complex.
On the western limb, the expansion of the smelter complex serving Northam’s long-serving Zondereinde platinum mine was scheduled to be commissioned by December 2017 at a capital cost of R750-million.
Dunne flashed graphics of these growth projects onto a large screen at the company’s results presentation for the six months to December 31, when it suffered a half-year loss of R273-million on a 5.4 % higher R3.2-billion revenue.
The assessment of the viability of the Booysendal Merensky project, on which R82.5-milion has already been invested, is expected to be presented to the board in April.
The Booysendal South project has been divided into four modular bord-and-pillar mining modules, which will be accessed from a common central portal complex, which minimises its environmental impact and reduces capital requirements
A aerial conveyor system will deliver ore from the central portal complex to the concentrator plant 4 km away. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video).
The central portal complex will also be connected to the Booysendal North mine concentrator plant using a similar system to achieve maximum flexibility.
The north and south mines will be connected by a cross-provincial road between Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
Access road design has been completed, and temporary power and water have been provided to the site for construction purposes, an early works programme that will continue throughout the year.
A feasibility study is due for completion by June, when it will go to the board.
Existing Everest infrastructure that will be incorporated includes a 250 000 t a month concentrator with an integrated chrome extraction plant, a tailings dam and a site for an additional tailings dam.
Dunne provided a sense of the proposed aerial conveyor system by screening photographs of the wheel-on-rope conveyors used extensively in Europe and supplied by Doppelmayr Transport Technology of Austria.
With processing capacity key to the growth plans, a new 20 MW furnace is being integrated into the company’s existing Zondereinde platinum smelter to increase capacity to one-million ounces a year.
The company’s long-standing refining partner Heraeus of Germany has agreed to contribute €20-million as a capital offset to the cost of the furnace in exchange for an extended refining contract and an option of buying up o 40% of Northam’s refined production.
Northam has also agreed to collaborate on the development of industrial projects that use the full range of PGMs.