JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Gamsberg zinc project in South Africa’s Northern Cape is on track with production expected by the middle of this year, the London-listed, India-rooted Vedanta Resources said on Wednesday, when it reported higher revenue and profits and lifted its dividend yield for the year to 6%.
Current expansion will take Vedanta to more than 1.5-million tonnes a year of zinc production, with Zinc India ramping up to 1.2-million tonnes and Gamsberg to 250 000 t in the near-term.
Headed by founder and chairperson Anil Agarwal, Vedanta reported a 33% increase in revenue and a 27% increase in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) in the 12 months to March 31.
Driven by firmer commodity prices and volume ramp-ups, revenue increased to $15.4-billion and Ebitda to $4.1-billion.
The $40-billion company, which employs 100 000 people directly and indirectly, is engaged in the mining and marketing of zinc, lead, silver, copper, iron-ore, aluminium and oil and gas, as well as the generation of electricity.
Underlying profit per share rose to US$0.583 from US$0.161 a share in the company’s 2017 financial year.
Return on capital employed improved to 14.9% and gross net debt reduced to $15.2-billion.
The final dividend of US$0.41 a share took the total dividend to US$0.65 a share after the company produced a record 960 000 t of refined zinc/lead and a record 17.9-million ounces of refined silver.
“We will continue our goal of increasing output from our existing asset base, whilst also embarking on new projects and expansions,” Agarwal said in a media release.
The Zinc India board has approved expansion to 1.35-million tonnes of zinc capacity and the expanding reserve and resource base at both Zinc India and Gamsberg provides Vedanta with an opportunity to increase production to two-million tonnes a year in the medium term.
Vedanta acquired the zinc assets of Anglo American eight years ago and through decisive underground and near-pit mining, it achieved payback on Anglo’s former zinc assets in South Africa, Namibia and Ireland in a mere two years.
It now has a far-reaching beneficiation plan for South Africa’s needy Northern Cape, where the new $400-million Gamsberg zinc mine is emerging.
As Mining Weekly Online reported earlier this month, the Vedanta board, in synchronisation with the second and third phases of the Gamsberg mine’s expansion plan, has approved a feasibility study into the development of a $700-million, 250 000 t/y, first-phase smelter-refinery complex.
The feasibility study’s scope takes in a review of previous work on clustering Vedanta Zinc International’s Black Mountain Mine and Skorpion Zinc in neighbouring Namibia. On the cards is the conversion of the 150 000 t/y Scorpion operation to co-treat sulphide and oxide concentrate from Gamsberg.
“I’m looking at 20, 30 or 40 downstream industries coming here,” Agarwal told Mining Weekly Online in outlining his vision for zinc-related galvanising activity and sulphuric acid spinoff. “They’ll use our zinc metal to galvanise pipe, sheet, anything and everything, and when you make zinc, sulphuric acid comes out and sulphuric acid is a fundamental ingredient of many industries,” he said of envisaged fertiliser production.
Needed to support all these will be additional power, transport and water infrastructure, with solar power earmarked to play a role in an integrated power solution.
Agarwal’s trust company Volcan Investments owns 21% of Anglo American, which he is urging to accentuate its link with South Africa and to retain South African assets previously earmarked for potential disposal.
Vedanta recently made important new South Africa-linked decisions when it appointed the Johannesburg-based AngloGold Ashanti CEO Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan as the new CEO of Vedanta from the end of August, and promoted Deshnee Naidoo to the position of CEO of Vedanta Resources’ Africa Base Metals, an entity through which the company’s zinc and copper assets in South Africa, Zambia and Namibia will be managed.
Agarwal has told the Financial Times that Venkat's appointment will give him more time to focus on his charitable interests, which include helping underprivileged women and children. He is quoted as saying that he is looking forward to Venkat taking over from him and allowing him to step back.
Regrettably, the Times of India reported on Wednesday that fresh police firing has taken the death toll over demands by the residents of Tuticorin for the closure of the group's Sterlite copper plant to 11.
Vendata said it was witnessing the tragic incidents around the protest with "great sorrow and regret" and working with authorities to ensure the safety of its employees, facilities and the surrounding community.
The Sterlite plant is currently non-operational.