Zimplats Ngezi surface drilling firmly on course
Platinum group metals (PGMs) producer Zimplats says the ongoing surface diamond drilling programme at its Ngezi mining lease 37 (ML 37) is on schedule as the group aims to upgrade its mineral resource base.
In an operational update for the quarter under review, the company said a total of 8,024 meters were drilled as part of the exploration work at a total cost of US$0,8 million, with a further US$0,5 million committed as of September 30, 2023.
“Exploration activities during the quarter focused on the ongoing surface diamond drilling programme at Ngezi ML37 to upgrade the group’s mineral resources. A total of 8 024 meters was drilled as part of the exploration work during the quarter,” the company said.
In 2018, Zimplats changed its status from being a special mining lease (SML) holder to a mining lease (ML) holder, which cost the group US$98,1 million in deferred tax charges.
The platinum giant was granted, with effect from May 31, 2018, two separate mining leases over two pieces of land measuring 6 605 hectares and 18 027 hectares, respectively, after it released to the Government the 23903 hectares of land it held but was not using.
However, under its US$1,8 billion capital expenditure investment, Zimplats’ strategy involves the setting up of integrated projects, including the development of new mines, expansion of the smelter, construction of an additional concentrator, base metal refinery and sulfuric acid plant, and setting up of a 110-megawatt solar power plant.
In the update, Zimplats said mine development and upgrade projects are at different stages of implementation and are progressing well and on target.
The company said projects to develop Mupani Mine and upgrade Bimha Mine, which will replace Rukodzi Mine, which was depleted in 2022, and the Ngwarati and Mupfuti mines, which will be depleted in the financial year 2025 and financial year 2028, respectively, were on target.
“Cumulatively, US$341 million has been spent on these projects, with an additional US$57 million committed, against a total project budget of US$468 million,” the company said.
Zimplats said the smelter expansion and the sulfur dioxide (SO) abatement plant project progressed as planned during the quarter, with US$158 million spent to date and a further US$256 million committed against a total project budget of US$521 million.
In addition, the implementation of the 35 MW solar plant project progressed as planned during the quarter, with a cumulative total of US$1 million spent on the project to date and US$35 million committed as of September 30, 2023, against a budget of US$37 million.
“This is the first of the project’s four phases, which will be implemented at an estimated total cost of US$201 million to generate 185 MW,” Zimplats said.
Zimplats said implementation of the Base Metal Refinery refurbishment project progressed well during the quarter, with US$16 million spent to date and a further US$14 million committed, against a total budget of US$190 million.
In terms of production, 6E metal in the final product increased by 1 percent to 164,504 ounces in the quarter to September 30, 2023, from the prior quarter’s 162,233 ounces, in line with increased milled volumes.
The company’s 6E metals imply platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, idruim, and gold. However, the metal in the final product was 18 percent higher than in the comparative period, which was impacted by a scheduled furnace shutdown.
“Ore mined volume increased by 1 percent from the prior quarter, with production benefiting from an additional operating day,” the company said in its quarterly update.
During the quarter under review, mined volumes increased by 4 percent from the prior-year comparative period as pillar reclamation operations at Rukodzi Mine were introduced and production at Mupani Mine continued to ramp up to design capacity.
Zimplats said 6E head grade increased by 1 percent from the prior quarter due to improved ore mix but was 2 percent lower than the prior year’s comparative period due to the increased contribution of low-grade Mupani Mine development tonnage to total ore milled.
The company’s volume of ore milled increased by 1 percent to 1,96 million metric tonnes from the prior quarter.
Zimplats said ore milled increased by 13 percent from the prior-year comparative period, benefiting from the increased milling capacity following the commissioning of the Ngezi third concentrator plant in September 2022.
The company’s total operating cash costs increased by 3 percent from the prior quarter due to inflation and 1 percent higher mined and milled volumes.
Zimplats said transfers from closing stocks to operating costs amounted to US$0,9 million during the period, a decrease of 67 percent from the prior quarter in line with inventory movement in the value chain.
“As a result, cash costs of metal produced increased by 2 percent compared to the prior quarter, while unit cost per 6E ounce, at US$832, was comparable to the previous quarter.”