Karo Platinum project progressing gradually Mr Pouroulis

Nelson Gahadza

Senior Business Reporter

SOUTH African firm, Tharisa Capital, says its Karo Platinum Project in Zimbabwe remains on course with smaller work packages aligned to capital availability and focusing on civil and infrastructure development.

Group chief executive Mr Phoevos Pouroulis, in production results for the second quarter of 2024, said the group was also progressing on the road to procuring the necessary third-party financing to deliver the first phase into production.

The Karo project in Zimbabwe is an open-pit platinum group metals (PGMs) asset under construction at a projected cost of US$391 million for phase 1. Already, more than US$100 million has been spent on mine infrastructure development and pilot mining.

Mr Pouroulis said operationally, the group performed well, building on a record first quarter and on track to meet guidance.

“Operationally, we performed well, building on a record first quarter and on track to meet guidance. Most pleasing is the continued trend in our improved safety record. We continue to drive improvement in recoveries and efficiencies, which are highly sensitive to the variability and oxidation of the feed into our processing plants.

“The Karo Platinum Project development continues with smaller work packages aligned to capital availability, focusing on civil and infrastructure development, as we progress on the road to procure the necessary third-party financing to deliver the first phase into production,” he said.

Tharisa has since extended the Karo platinum project timeline for commissioning from July 2024 to June 2025 owing to a deterioration in PGM prices.

The continued weakness in PGM prices has influenced the financing market, and Tharisa, after a strategic review, extended the Karo platinum project development timeline by 12 months.

Karo Holdings country manager, Dr Josephat Zimba during a tour of the project site earlier this year, said that the project was being built in the middle of a challenging environment with the PGM prices being the lowest in recent times, but they continue to count on the government for support in many respects, including fiscal support, to get the project to completion.

“These are multi-generational projects, with an impact in terms of the number of people employed and the quality of work that’s being done here.

“This will live for many decades to come and then contribute significantly to the economy of this country. We will be putting in probably additional plus or minus 190 to 200,000 ounces of PGMs on an annual basis and obviously contribute significantly in terms of our payments to the Fiscus.

“So it’s a major project, and this is only phase one of the project, in addition to the additional phases that will come along,” he said.

Dr Zimba said the magnitude of the project needs a lot of fiscal support to be able to deliver, more so in these times when prices are at rock bottom.

He said the company, as always, engaged in discussions with the government, which has overall been very understanding and supportive.

The company also completed the pilot mining for US$8 million and stockpiled 68 000 tonnes of ore.

Dr Zimba said the pilot project was a very useful exercise for the workers to determine how they would mine that ore body.

However, in additional comments, Tharisa chief executive Mr Pouroulis said the group achieved a milestone in its innovation strategy with the official launch of Redox One, which is at the forefront of developing long-term energy storage solutions using proprietary proven technology, to deliver a ‘Mine-to-Megawatt’ solution at a competitive storage cost compared to existing technologies.

“We also commenced with a US$5 million share repurchase programme to the benefit of our shareholders and reflecting our firm belief in the current and future prospects of our company,” he said.

However, he noted that PGM prices have stabilised after a pricing correction driven in part by negative sentiment around long-term demand drivers.

He said production guidance for FY2024 remains between 145 000 ounces (koz) and 155 koz PGMs on a 6E basis and 1,7 million tonnes to 1,8 million tonnes of chrome concentrates.

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