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Tharisa reports highest ever quarterly chrome output, increased PGMs production

Tharisa CEO Phoevos Pouroulis

Tharisa CEO Phoevos Pouroulis

11th January 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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London- and JSE-listed Tharisa has reported an 8.7% increase in mill throughput at its South African operations to more than 1.4-million tonnes, with improvements in both grade and recovery for platinum group metals (PGMs) and chrome concentrate for the first quarter of the 2024 financial year, which ended on December 31.

This surge led to PGMs output reaching 35 700 oz, a notable increase on the 30 700 oz produced in the fourth quarter of the 2023 financial year.

Additionally, Tharisa achieved its highest ever quarterly chrome output at 462 800 t, surpassing the 413 400 t recorded in the previous quarter.

The PGMs basket price showed a slight improvement of 1% to $1 344/oz, on a six element (6E) basis compared with $1 331/oz in the fourth quarter of the 2023 financial year. Meanwhile, the average metallurgical grade chrome concentrate price remained steady at $291/t, consistent with prices in the fourth quarter of the 2023 financial year.

Tharisa's financial position as of December 31 revealed group cash-on-hand of $221.5-million, a decrease from $268.8-million on September 30 last year. The company's debt also decreased to $126.6-million from $142.2-million, resulting in a net cash position of $94.9-million, down from $126.6-million on September 30 last year.

The production guidance for the 2024 financial year remains between 145 000 oz and 155 000 oz of PGMs (on a 6E basis) and 1.7-million to 1.8-million tonnes of chrome concentrates.

“A positive start to our new financial year in what is traditionally a tough quarter, with the festive season and inclement weather typically causing challenges to operations. We have made good operational improvements, with waste mining advances leading to a better mining and plant performance, resulting in record quarterly chrome production.

“This performance is vital and underpins our development of the Karo platinum project [in Zimbabwe] and sets the trajectory for the coming decades at our multigenerational Tharisa mine,” Tharisa CEO Phoevos Pouroulis said on January 11.

He noted, however, that PGM prices remain subdued, negatively affecting many of the PGM miners in South Africa.

Nonetheless, Tharisa’s coproduct business model continued to be operationally cash-generative, and the chrome market continued to see strong demand.

“This year, we will be expanding and rolling out our research and development projects in distinct stages of development and commercialisation. With a solid foundation, we can reframe the operating context and refocus our energy on our key competencies ultimately unlocking value for all stakeholders,” Pouroulis said.

In terms of health and safety, Tharisa reported a lost-time injury frequency rate of 0.09 per 200 000 man hours worked at Tharisa Minerals and 0.13 per 200 000 man hours worked at Karo Platinum.

In the market update, Tharisa noted continued strong demand in the chrome market, particularly in the lead-up to the Chinese New Year, with economic fundamentals and concerns about inland logistics in South Africa contributing to this demand.

However, the PGMs market has faced pricing pressure, leading to shaft and mine closures in South Africa. Tharisa expects a balance in PGM prices as real demand from end-users becomes evident and further supply cuts are implemented.

The operational update indicated a slight decrease in total reef mined at more than one-million tonnes, with strategic run-of-mine ore purchases supplementing own mine production.

Quarterly chrome production reached a record 462 800 t, with a grade of 19.1% chromic oxide and a recovery rate of 70.3%. Quarterly PGMs production amounted to 35 700 oz, with a rougher feed grade of 1.60 g/t and a recovery rate of 66.1%.

Regarding the Karo Platinum Project, the review of the commissioning timeline remains on track for first ore in the mill by June 2025. Funding solutions ring-fenced to Karo Platinum are being pursued in line with the revised production timeline.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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