Zimplats okays US$200m refinery upgrade

The Herald

Nelson Gahadza-Senior Business Reporter

Zimplats says its board has approved the refurbishment of the mothballed base metal refinery (BMR) at Selous Metallurgical Complex at a cost of US$200 million, as it seeks to further beneficiate matte.

In a production update for the quarter ended December 31, 2022, Zimbabwe’s largest platinum producer said the project is already in the initial stage of implementation.

“The BMR is designed to process an equivalent 5 200 tonnes of nickel and associated base metals contained in converter matte.

“The project is in the initial stage of implementation and a total of US$0,3 million has been committed with no expenditure recorded to date against a budget of US$189,9 million,” it said.

The project is part of the group’s overall capital investment strategy, which has a budget of US$1,8 billion to be implemented over a 10-year period beginning in 2021. Of the total investment, US$1,2 billion has already been approved for implementation.

Zimplats base metal refinery project resonates with the Government’s thrust on mineral beneficiation.  

Government has over the years been exploring possible methods of ensuring beneficiation of minerals, with policies targeting mostly platinum, diamonds, gold and chrome mining with the intention to unlock the full potential of the mining sector. Mineral beneficiation is in line with the Government’s quest for a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023.

Zimplats also said in its recent update that execution of the 35MW solar plant project which is Phase 1 of Zimplats’ 185 MW solar project progressed during the quarter with a total of US$0,8 million spent and US$0,4million committed against a budget of US$37 million.

The company said the engineering, procurement and construction contract was awarded during the quarter.

“The solar plant is being constructed at Selous Metallurgical Complex and is targeted for completion in financial year 2024.

“Overall, the project has four implementation phases with the last phase scheduled for completion in financial year 2027 at a total estimated project cost of US$201 million,” it said.

During the quarter under review, 6E metal in the final product increased by 16 percent from the prior quarter and was 15 percent higher year-on-year.

Zimplats said the growth in production reflects the benefit of higher concentrator volumes and the impact of inventory accumulation during the scheduled furnace reline in the prior quarter.

During the period under review, mined volumes increased by 1 percent from the prior quarter and was 14 percent higher year-on-year, with strong operational performances across the mines.

The group said mined volumes in the quarter were adversely impacted by production disruptions at Mupfuti Mine during a changeover of the trackless mining equipment service provider.

Group’s ore milled increased by 13 percent from the prior quarter to 1,95 million tonnes.

“Milled volumes benefited from higher installed capacity following the commissioning of the Ngezi third concentrator plant in September 2022. The plant achieved nameplate capacity in the period under review,” said Zimplats.

During the quarter under review, 6E (6 Eleent) head grade decreased by 2 percent from the prior quarter and was 1 percent lower year-on-year.

The company said this was due to increased contribution of lower-grade development ore from the Mupani Mine stockpile.

Zimplats said US$1,4 million was spent on exploration projects, with a further US$4,7 million committed as at 31 December 2022.

The exploration activities included mineral resource evaluation, comprising approximately 7 968 meters of surface diamond drilling on mining lease ML 36.

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