Pallinghurst to build PGM technology tipped to transform sector

PALLINGHURST Resources through its platinum investment Sedibelo Platinum Mine, together with Lifezone and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) are to press ahead with the commercial development of its Kell Platinum Beneficiation Technology that is expected to transform the platinum group metal (PGM) sector in southern Africa.

“A bankable feasibility study has been completed and the boards have resolved to move forward with the project,” said Arné Frandsen, CEO of Pallinghurst. “This is a game-changer for platinum smelting and refining both south and north of the Limpopo (river),” he said.

Kell technology, which has been developed by Sedibelo director, Keith Liddell, has been under wraps for the last five years, and is a chemically-based leach process that consumes less than a fifth of electricity required to operate standard platinum smelters and refineries which burn the impurities from platinum concentrate. The capital cost of the Kell technology is a tenth of a normal smelter/refinery, said Frandsen.

“Following the construction and running of two pilot plants, in Perth Australia, which has been rigorously tested with concentrate from our Sedibelo mine and other Southern African mines, the Kell technology has been proven and show that there are no fatal flaws in the process,” said Frandsen.

The Kell plants, which can be constructed in modules – and is therefore scaleable – costs about $100m and can be built in about 18 months.

The intention is for Sedibelo to operate Kell on a toll basis although potential third party customers can also make equity investments in the construction of modules. Preliminary discussions had been held with a number of junior and new entrant mining companies in South Africa.

“The concept has been discussed with other mining companies and their concentrate have successfully been tested in our pilot plants,” said Frandsen.

“However, we are not ready to discuss terms yet,” he added. Frandsen said the founding partners will continue to hold significant stakes in future Kell plants.

The technology break-through comes at a handy time for Pallinghurst which announced last week a turnaround in its profitability and hinted at corporate plans where it intended to further unlock value from its investments which include Sedibelo, as well as a stake in Gemfields and Tshipi, a manganese mine in the Northern Cape province.

Pallinghurst was started with a 10-year goal in mind where it would sell its investments and distribute the proceeds as a special dividend. The articles of the company, however, allow for “… simple mechanisms for extension beyond that period,” said Frandsen last week.

Said Gilbertson in notes to the company’s 2016 financial results: “2017 represents the 10-year anniversary for Pallinghurst. As per our company articles, this anniversary requires that we pause to evaluate how to unlock the inherent value of our assets.

“We are exploring all options available and will shortly present a proposal to shareholders,” he said. One of the interesting issues to crop up in Pallinghurst’s assessment of its financial year was the issue of market and commodity price volatility and the effect this had on getting full value for its unlisted investments in Sedibelo and Tshipi.