CAPE TOWN (miningweekly.com) – Beneficiation would be the key driver of Ivanplats' proposed new platinum mine in South Africa where platinum-product manufacturing would take place together with mining, Ivanhoe chairperson Robert Friedland said on Wednesday.
Ivanplats, which listed in Canada eight months ago, is considering a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Friedland told the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, attended by a record number of 7 500 delegates.
The proposed Ivanplats mine, located in the Bushveld Complex’s Platreef in Limpopo province, would be a 700-m-deep underground mine that would have sufficient copper and nickel co-product credits to cover all mining costs.
Friedland told the conference that current indications were that mining would continue on the site for more than a century.
The Platreef discovery had been worked on for 17 years.
“We’ve worked very quietly, like a submarine in deep waters,” he said.
He said that Ivanplats was grasping the opportunity to start changing the mining paradigm by combining mining and the manufacture of platinum-containing catalytic converters and platinum jewellery.
He spoke minutes after Gold Fields chairperson Dr Mamphela Ramphele had told the conference that mining could not go on the way it was and would have to embrace a fresh, new model that, simultaneous with mining, boosted agriculture and industry and put an end to the currency-strengthening Dutch Disease that inhibited exports and stunted growth.
He said that Ivanplats’ mining licence application would contain a plan to establish the broadest black economic-empowerment offering possible.
Mineworkers would also be paid considerably more than current South African pay scales.
The Japanese co-investors in the project were poised to be a great help in finding the new way to the future.
“We understand the importance of partnership with workers and the government and its new State mining company. We will have black economic empowerment of the broadest kind. Sustainability is the key driver of the way we will build our business,” Friedland said, adding that platinum had a massive future in the modern world of rapid urbanisation in that it was able to play catalytic roles ranging from cracking oil to keeping the air of cities clean.
He also promised the highest levels of safety.
The operation would have “zero fatalities” and would deliver benefits beyond mining through a better employment model and a youth skilling programme.
The company would be involved in making catalytic converters and jewellery.
“We can do it right here,” Friedland said, pointing to maps of the area.
Platinum demand would grow as 37 megacities took shape around the world, all of them requiring metals in general and platinum-group metals (PGMs) in particular to clean the air.
“Planet earth is going urban,” he said, which would be wildly consumptive of raw materials.
Friedland expressed “extreme optimism” in the future of South Africa in particular and Africa in general, where there would be a labour force of a billion people in the next 30 years.
The Platreef had eight-floor-high reefs as opposed to most platinum mines with table-height reef.
A centrally positioned shaft will allow 360-degree mechanised mining to take place highly productively.
“We have discovered reef thickness of 24 m, higher than this ceiling,” Friedland said in the large double-volume Mining Indaba auditorium.
“It’s been geologically enigmatic and we’ve unlocked its secrets.”
It is next door to Anglo American Platinum’s ultra-rich Mogalakwena opencast operation, which is situated 30 km north-west of the town of Mokopane.
Friedland pointed to the Japanese co-investors in the audience and said that they had acquired a combined 18% of the platinum project, noting that Toyota vehicles were manufactured in South Africa.
“We have to build a mine where absolutely nobody dies and workers are more like skilled surgeons. If someone wants to buy a car from Toyota they want more than material from muscle power and we will have a lot more to say on this,” Friedland added.
Ivanhoe also had high-grade copper deposits and zinc deposits in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Zinc has a new use. If you add zinc to fertilisers, you get a yield that is far higher. The Chinese government is adding zinc to all fertilisers,” he said.
He is enthusiastic about Gabon’s oil and gold and believes that the country has a great future.
The company’s biggest shareholders are schoolteachers and government workers in Quebec.
“We thought of listing in London, but we believe South Africa is more appropriate,” Friedland concluded.