‘Saudi Arabia offers an attractive climate that includes highly competitive energy costs, lower tax and government financing incentives’
FRANK Hallam’s job didn’t get easier in 2023. Platinum Group Metals (PTM) is hoping to develop the Waterberg Project, a platinum group metal (PGM) deposit in South Africa’s Limpopo province. PGMs had a torrid time, especially palladium – the metal Waterberg Project will produce the most – which collapsed nearly 50% last year. As a result, it’s been hard to talk about introducing new palladium to the market but that’s exactly what Hallam has been doing. Don’t dismiss his chances despite the numerous obstacles on PTM’s plate.
For one, Waterberg Project is a counter-cyclical argument. Right now, no-one wants new PGM production but some in the market think there’s been permanent structural damage to PGM supply. In the short term, PTM is working on an update of a feasibility study of the Waterberg Project. At the last take, it was a 420,000 ounce a year venture costing about $600m. Its scope will surely be phased, if not reined in completely. Secondly, Hallam has to secure a concentrate offtake agreement, which is critical to financing the project. He told a Johannesburg investment conference he had been “pounding on doors” in search of a deal, but nobody expected him to go to Saudi Arabia to do it.
By December, PTM announced a cooperation agreement with Ajlan & Bros Mining & Metals to look into building a PGM smelter and base metals refinery in Saudi Arabia, potentially leading to concentrate offtake terms as well as seeking concentrate supply from other PGM projects globally. This could be a huge coup for Hallam after years of fruitlessly negotiating with Waterberg partner Impala Platinum over a deal. According to Hallam, the cost of transporting the concentrate to Saudi Arabia will be offset by its cheap power, low taxation and significant government incentives.
LIFE OF FRANK
A qualified CA with expertise in business administration, Hallam developed an early taste for risk not normally associated with your common-or-garden accountant. He cofounded MAG Silver Corp and West Timmins Mining along with PTM. He has the scars for his endeavours: he stood beside former PTM CEO Mike Jones as he “went to business hell and back” between 2017 and 2019 following PTM’s disastrous Maseve project. Hallam was previously an auditor at PwC.