Zimplats to spend $690m on refinery upgrade

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ZIMBABWE Platinum Mines (Zimplats) plans to upgrade its 15-year-old base metal refinery in Selous at a total cost of $690 million to refine the metal, chief executive Alex Mhembere said on Wednesday, as the industry responds to government’s push for local beneficiation.
The platinum refining process goes through two significant stages; the base metal refinery, which separates base metals such as nickel and copper, and the precious metal refinery which processes the various platinum group metals and gold to high levels of purity.
The company has previously indicated that it will set up refinery facilities within two years.
Mhembere told an analysts briefing in Harare that the base metal refinery upgrade would be done in two phases, with the first one expected to cost $190 million and the second stage, at a cost of $500 million.
He said the current facility at Zimplats can only process 90,000 ounces per year yet company targets to produce 270,000 ounces of platinum by early 2015.
Mhembere added that Zimplats will be working with Bindura Nickel Corporation and RioZim whose facilities would need to be modified to accommodate high sulphur content and increase the refining output from the three mines.
“We are working very closely with them in terms of the process and work that we are doing. We are going to integrate their facilities with our facilities,” he said.
In an earlier fourth quarter update posted on the Australian-listed firm’s website, Zimplats said the collapse of its largest mine will leave an estimated 9,5 percent dent in its tonnage throughput in 2015, although productivity is expected to recover in subsequent years.
A ground collapse at Zimplats’ Bimha mine in Ngezi reported earlier this month has resulted in the firm losing about half of its total mining footprint.
“Throughput at the Zimplats operation is planned at 6.2 million tonnes per annum and the initial production loss estimate indicates a 9.5 percent reduction in tonnage throughput in FY2015, and 3 percent lower in the ensuing years,” Zimplats said in its fourth quarter update on Wednesday.
“A full rock engineering analysis is underway to better understand the back area failure and once this is completed, an updated set of mitigation measures will be communicated and implemented.”
Mhembere told analysts during a briefing on Wednesday that it would take 15 months to redevelop the section of the Bimha mine that collapsed where two teams would be deployed to restart the operation.Advertisement

“But it is not 15 months of no production as they re-develop they will be producing ore,” he said.
However, prior to the Bimha incident, Zimplats recorded a 10 percent increase in tonnes mined, largely due to a production ramp-up at its Mupfuti mines, the company said.