Tharisa says PGM prices beginning to improve as chip shortage eases

THARISA kicked off its 2022 financial year with new record production numbers and said platinum group metal (PGM) prices were beginning to improve after a period of correction.

The average platinum basket price received by Tharisa for the first quarter was $2,394 per ounce, but on a spot basis the basket was averaging $2,700/oz, the company said today.

First quarter PGM production totalled 47,700 ounces representing a 9.2% quarter-on-quarter increase while chrome concentrate production was 401,800 tons, a shade higher than the fourth quarter. The company operates from the Tharisa mine near Rustenburg in South Africa’s North West province.

“A great start to our new financial year which will see the company transform further,” said Phoevos Pouroulis, CEO of Tharisa in an announcement today.

The hot commissioning of the $55m Vulcan plant which will enable Tharisa to increase chrome production to two million tons annually was progressing and first production was set for the second quarter, Pouroulis said.

As part of a diversification strategy, Tharisa’s Salene Chrome, a mine in Zimbabwe, was building stockpiles ahead of processing where a mobile plant was being commissioned.

Pouroulis added that Tharisa was “eagerly awaiting” the approval from the Zimbabwean government of its Karo Platinum Mine proposal “… so we can share the exciting plans we have made for the development of this world class resource and project”.

Karo Platinum, in which Tharisa has a 26.8% stake, has the development rights over a PGM prospect in Zimbabwe containing 96 million oz. It has the potential to double Tharisa’s PGM production – to approximately 300,000 oz a year in its first phase – but will require $300m in capital outlay (on a 100% basis).

PGMs Improving

Commenting on the PGM market, Tharisa said that the supply-demand balance was “improving” and that bottlenecks in the chip and motor industry were “abating” while stockpiles from some of the major producers were also been worked through.

“While Covid-19 seems to remain a short-term risk, global growth looks set to recover with the increasing emissions standards underpinning prices,” the company said.

From a chrome market perspective, there had been an uptick in pricing towards the end of the quarter. Ferrochrome production in China had started to increase as many of the power restrictions imposed on industrial hubs last year were throttled back. Port stocks of chrome had fallen to an estimated 2.7 million tons (Mt) from four million tons at the beginning of the quarter, the company said.

Tharisa also alluded to the ongoing logistical challenges in South Africa where state-owned freight company Transnet has struggled with vandalism and theft. It said it continued to “… deliver chrome concentrates into the market notwithstanding logistics challenges, both inland and sea freight”.

Tharisa was on course to meet full year production of 165,000 to 175,000 PGM oz and between 17.5Mt and 1.85Mt of chrome concentrate.

The company, which announced a five US cents a share final dividend in December, ended the first quarter with net cash of $24.4m. Debt increased to $54.7m from $35.5m recorded at the end of the fourth quarter (September 30) owing to “short term trade financing flows relating to the timing of chrome concentrate shipments”.