Southern Palladium says resource update to support $408m project

SOUTHERN Palladium, the Johannesburg-listed platinum group metals exploration firm, said it had completed drilling which would “provide a strong foundation” ahead of producing a prefeasibility study.

The company completed a total of 82 drill holes of UG2 Reef of the Bengwenyama deposit which is estimated to have a weighted average 7E (seven metals or elements) grade of 9.88 grams per ton over a width of 67 centimetres.

These results “consistently confirmed the initial inferred mineral resource grades and prill split (of metals to each other) – thus confirming the robustness of the UG2 Reef and the broader project,” said Johan Odendaal, MD of Southern Palladium.

The company was also investing the potential for producing chrome from the deposit and whether the footwall of the Merensky Reef provided economic mineralisation. “The forthcoming updates and continued drilling for the Definitive Feasibility Study will be crucial in realising the full potential of this world-class asset,” said Odendaal.

In February Southern Palladium published details of a scoping study into Bengwenyama in which it estimated a post tax net present value of $700m assuming “conservative” metal prices. The assumption is for an average palladium price of $1,200 per ounce for platinum, a palladium price of $1,100/oz, and $5,000/oz for rhodium. The capital cost was forecast to be $408m, including contingencies.

Southern Palladium’s price assumptions are in line with how the metals have traded from 2019 to part of 2023 but palladium rarely traded above $1,100/oz before then. Rhodium has not traded above $5,000/oz for at least 15 years prior to late 2019 when it raced up to more than $29,000/oz before retreating as precipitously in 2023.

Southern Palladium has estimated average annual production of 330,000 oz at an all-in sustaining cost of $836/6E oz in its calculations.

PGM prices this year appear to have bottomed out but remain vulnerable to volatility. Commenting in its first quarter production update in April, Impala Platinum said there was “notable volatility in both platinum and palladium reflecting the continued influence of investor activity”.