Tharisa needs more of the same after record Q1 chrome output

Chrome concentrate

THARISA started its 2024 financial year on a good production footing producing record amounts of chrome, a metal used in steelmaking.

The company said in a first quarter production report on Thursday it was attracting good prices amid “strong demand” ahead of the Chinese new year.

Chrome production was 462,800 tons while Tharisa produced 35,700 ounces of platinum group metals where pricing remained under pressure, a small uptick in December (driven by short-covering in the investment market) notwithstanding.

Tharisa has net cash of $94.9m, down on a fourth quarter balance of $126.6m.

Last year Tharisa had a difficult first production quarter troubled by heavy rains, so the improvement this year would be a welcome harbinger.

CEO Phoevos Pouroulis needs a recovery in PGM prices this year, few operational hiccups, sustained chrome pricing and even better freight performance from Transnet.

Tharisa pushed out the completion of its $391m Karo Project a year to June 2025 but has not discounted implementing further delays if the PGM price deteriorates putting pressure on the balance sheet. Pouroulis said today “(perceived) excess inventory in the PGM pipeline” remained in evidence.

Pouroulis said the company is continuing to explore project finance options for Karo which, when built, will take Tharisa’s PGM production to around 400,000 oz/year.

He is also looking to improved mining recoveries from the Tharisa pit. In December, Tharisa  announced underground mining at its the North West province mine earlier than planned in order to overcome operating constraints in the open pit currently.

The company was to first run a feasibility study to assess underground mining, but it would start shallow underground mechanised operations in the west pit of the Tharisa mine. “This prudent decision will maintain the mines operational flexibility and provides further de-risking,” said Pouroulis at the time.

Tharisa also announced modest guidance for PGM production for its 2024 financial year which at 145,000 to 155,000 oz is significantly down on original guidance for last year of 175,000 to 185,000 oz (actual 2023 PGM production was 144,700 oz). Tharisa has guided to chrome production of 1.7 to 1.8Mt in chrome concentrate.