KARO Mining Holdings, the company that has undertaken to invest $4.2bn building Zimbabwe’s largest platinum group metal (PGM) facilities by about 2023, aims to start chrome mining in the country from October.
A lesser known feature of Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s speech in which he unveiled the planned investment by Karo Mining Holdings is that the periphery of the mining lease granted to the company by the government had alluvial chrome deposits.
Mnangagwa said Karo Mining’s ‘master plan’ earmarked the building of infrastructure on a significant portion of this area and that to avoid the sterilisation of the mineral resources, Karo had undertaken “.. the mining of these illuvial deposits which will be value added into the production of ferrochrome and or other chrome-based products”.
“The mining of these illuvial deposit [sic] is intended to commence by October 2018 to ensure that the company retains flexibility and capacity to construct the necessary infrastructure as it embarks on timelines indicated earlier,” he said. The timelines to which Mnangagwa refers is for commissioning of the first open pit by 2020 to produce the initial 3.6 million tonnes of ore equal to 350,000 PGMs ounces annually.
The PGM facility will then scale up in phases over successive years to 2023 in which production of some 1.4 million oz will be achieved. Based on current production capacity, this will make Karo Mining Holdings by 2023 the largest PGM producer in the country. A base metals and precious metals refinery would also be constructed both for the purposes of Karo and for toll-treating of concentrate from other suppliers.
Karo Mining Holdings has Loucas Pouourlis as its backer, a veteran mining entrepreneur who is also behind Tharisa plc, a UK and Johannesburg-listed chrome and PGM company. Tharisa CEO, Phoevos Pouroulis was part of a business team that visited Mnangagwa to discuss mining opportunities in the country.
Asked to comment on Karo’s proposed investment, Tharisa said it “… noted the recent joint announcement by Karo Mining Holdings Limited and the Zimbabwean government regarding the development of an integrated mining and refining facility in Zimbabwe”.
“Tharisa continues to look at all opportunities to expand our business, particularly if these fit with our strategy to invest in large scale, low cost projects that are value accretive to our shareholders,” it added.
Phoevos Pouroulis has said in the past that the company was interested in expanding its footprint elsewhere in Africa, possibly into other commodities. “We are continually looking for opportunities for geographic and commodity diversification,” the company said.