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Heraeus Precious Appraisal

  • Edition 44 I 13th December 2021

Low-cost PGM ounces from Zimbabwe reaching record levels

Zimplats, a subsidiary of Impala Platinum, has announced a US$1.8 billion investment strategy to expand PGM production and processing capacity in Zimbabwe. The strategy will be implemented over a 10-year period starting in 2021, and includes mine replacement projects and upgrades, expansion of smelting capacity, and expansion to downstream beneficiation in the form of additional base metal refining capacity.

The approval of new growth projects will see Zimplats’ concentrating capacity increase from 6.7 million tonnes per annum to 8.8 million tonnes p.a., and boost in-country smelting processing capacity to 380,000 tonnes p.a. of concentrate. Rising production from Zimplats means that additional smelting capacity is required. In addition, the Government will be very supportive of the investment into a further beneficiation step in the form of new base metal refining capacity.

Zimbabwe’s production is base-metal-rich, so adding further capacity to refine base metals within the country could free up significant base metal capacity at Impala’s refinery in South Africa, potentially allowing it to accept higher volumes of base-metal-rich feeds from other sources.

Zimbabwe has a shallow orebody that can be mined using bulk mining methods, which keeps operating costs low. The existing portals at Zimplats’ Mupani and Bimha mines are currently undergoing expansion, which will provide feed to the installed processing capacity as older, depleting operations come to the end of their production lives. Zimbabwe accounts for close to 10% of global platinum supply, estimated to reach ~500 koz in 2021. As Mupani and Bimha ramp up, platinum output from Zimbabwe is expected to increase by an average of 2.5% (~10 koz) p.a. over the next few years.

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