Zimbabwe’s largest platinum producer, Zimplats, has begun work to reopen its open pit mine which was closed in 2008 in order to reduce the volume gap created by the precautionary closure of Bimha Mine in August last year. Bimha Mine experienced a partial collapse leading to its subsequent precautionary closure in August last year. Since then extensive monitoring and studies have been undertaken by the company and independent experts to identify the root cause of the collapse, assess mine stability and establish a new mining platform in terms of rock support designs and mining methods.
Zimplats head of corporate affairs Ms. Busi Chindove said 2015 has started off with mixed fortunes for the company.
“On the one hand the company is encouraged by the decision made in December 2014 to re-enter and re-develop the mine following a comprehensive risk assessment to ensure safe operations and effective evacuation should the need arise. On the other hand, metal prices remain depressed,” said Ms Chindove.
“The challenge of flat metal prices continues to place pressure on the company to put in place stringent cost management strategies,” she said.
Depressed metal prices have the effect of reducing mining companies’ margins as costs remain high.
Ms. Chindove said work to reopen the open pit mine which was closed in 2008 has commenced.
On Bimha Mine, studies informed the basis of a new mine re-establishment layout and design. The scope entails re-developing along strike, 30m above the current footprint. It is anticipated that it will take thirty-six months to get back to the original footprint.
“Against this background the redevelopment of Bimha Mine the largest of Zimplats four mines comes as good news,” said Ms Chindove.
First quarter results announced in October last year showed that tonnes mined in the quarter decreased by 12 percent while revenues were down 20 percent from the previous quarter mainly due to the closure of Bimha Mine.
In alignment with the thrust on beneficiation in the economic blueprint ZimAsset, work on the Base metal refinery at the Selous Metallurgical complex that began last year continues despite the reduced output from Bimha Mine, bringing with it opportunities for local employment and engagement of local suppliers of goods and services.
Zimplats has played a leadership role in the mining industry with regards to engagement of local suppliers as part of their local supplier development strategy. In the year ended June 2014 local suppliers contributed 66 percent of the company’s annual spend on goods and services. Local spend for the quarter July to September last year amounted to $50million.
Platinum is known as a “green” metal, because of the role that it plays in significantly slowing down the effects of global warming.
About 60 percent of all platinum produced globally is used in the manufacture of auto catalysts or catalytic converters which reduce carbon emissions from vehicles and therefore help to slow down global warming. Over 98 percent of new cars sold worldwide each year are now fitted with these devices and the automobile industry accounted for 51 percent of total world PGM demand in 2010.
The reduction in carbon emissions has a direct benefit on people’s health by reducing the amount of harmful gases that people breathe in.
Air pollution in both cities and rural areas was estimated by the WHO to cause 3,7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012. This figure would be higher without auto-catalysts.
“So it’s positive that platinum group metals enable car manufacturers to comply with emissions standards and help regulators to implement tighter emissions regulations,” she said.
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