JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The market fundamentals for chrome remain sound with continued growth forecast for the global stainless steel industry, Tharisa said on Wednesday, when it reported a strong operational performance in the three months to December 31.
The Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed chrome and platinum group metals (PGMs) mining company headed by CEO Phoevos Pouroulis has entered the new year with a bang on record first-quarter (Q1) tonnes milled of 1 310 200 t, record chrome concentrate production of 365 800 t, record specialty chrome concentrate production of 88 100 t and record 84.3% PGM recoveries.
In the three months to December 31, the Cyprus-domiciled, South Africa-based company produced 365 800 t of chrome and 38 800 oz of PGMs, with quarter-on-quarter specialty grade production 5.5% up on a higher-than-targeted chrome recovery of 65.5%.
Specialty chrome concentrates, which make up 24.1% of Tharisa’s total chrome production, continued to attract a premium above the contracted metallurgical chrome concentrate prices.
The opencast mine’s Q1 transition from contractor mining to owner mining saw 1 245 300 t reef output in line with the preceding quarter, as increased waste removal ensured reef sufficiency for optimal blending ahead of the processing plants.
Total waste of 2.7-million cubic metres was moved at a stripping ratio of 7.8, compared with a life-of-pit average stripping ratio of 9.7.
Tharisa’s 2018 financial year production guidance remains 150 000 oz of PGMs and 1.4-million tonnes of chrome concentrates, of which 350 000 t will be specialty grade chrome concentrates.
Near-term focus is on continued operational improvement and the commencement of the Vision 2020 projects to ensure that, from 2020, Tharisa delivers at a rate of 200 000 oz of PGMs a year and two-million tonnes of chrome concentrates a year.
Ore stockpiles ahead of the processing plants totalled 242 700 t as at December 31, representing two weeks of plant throughput.
The average PGM basket price in the three months to December 31 was $865/oz, $40/oz up on the $825/oz of the previous quarter. In rands, these prices were R11 827/oz and R10 866/oz.
PGM basket prices again reflected improvements in spot palladium and rhodium prices, with palladium making up 16.6% and rhodium comprising 9.4% of the Tharisa basket.
The spot palladium price ended the calendar year at $1 057/oz and the spot rhodium price ended the calendar year at $1 470/oz.
In 2017, the spot palladium price increased by 58% and spot rhodium price increased by 52.6%.
Contracted metallurgical grade chrome concentrate prices increased 4.1% to $179/t on improved liquidity and consistent stock levels at ferrochrome and stainless steel producers in China.
Current metallurgical chrome spot prices are above $200/t for the February 2018 shipment.
As at December 29, Chinese port stock levels were at 2.2-million tonnes, representing two months’ supply into the ferrochrome and stainless steel industry.