Platmin secures 6Moz in R500m deal with Bakgatla community

23rd March 2011 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

MORULENG (miningweekly.com) – The TSX- and JSE-listed platinum miner Platmin has secured six million ounces of platinum in a R500-million deal that “transforms the business”.

Pallinghurst CEO Arne Frandsen tells Mining Weekly Online that the acquired resource has the advantage of being shallow, flat and contiguous to Platmin’s operating Tuschenkomst openpit of the Pilanesberg mine that is set to break even this year.

“What nature had created as a single orebody, man has tried to set asunder by putting a fence through it, and that’s not a good way to mine, ” says Pallinghurst chairperson and iconic former BHP Billiton CEO Brian Gilbertson, who adds that “mining efficiency comes from consolidation, not from fragmentation”.

The deal provides the opportunity for the orebody to be mined "as God's mining engineer intended", adds Frandsen.

Platmin CEO Tom Dale tells Mining Weekly Online that the deal provides an uninterrupted 12 km of platinum-bearing reef that now belongs to a single group of owners - the Bakgatla community, the Pallinghurst investment consortium and Platmin.

Community leader Nyalala Pilane, together with a 60-strong Bakgatla Traditional Council representation at the official signing ceremony and media conference, tells Mining Weekly Online that the community is strategising to reap the benefits of its mineral endowment, both during and after the tenure of mining.

“The proceeds from the sale of these rights will inject significant funds and resources into our ongoing community development projects and will benefit the more than 350 000 Bakgatla members,” Pilane adds to Mining Weekly Online.

The deal with the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela community and the community’s Itereleng Bakgatla Mineral Resources vehicle also provides a bridge to the group’s Magazynskraal platinum property, where a feasibility study is due for completion in the third quarter of 2012.

An upbeat Frandsen, a former Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase investment banker, is delighted that no community member needs to be relocated to make way for mining and that most of the 1 050 workers are able to go home to their nearby families after every working day.

“The Bakgatla is not a passenger in this bus, but they’re driving this bus together with us,” he adds.

The community has invested a billion rand of cash in the business, which now has a Booysendal-size resource, but with the added advantage of being on the western limb of the platinum-rich Bushveld Complex.

“To date, we’ve put more than R4-billion into the Pilanesberg area, which has come pretty much exclusively from foreign investors,” Frandsen adds.

The deal is a first step towards Platmin’s participation in the development of the last shallow platinum resource on the western limb of the Bushveld Complex.

The shallowness of the resource equates to safer and lower-cost mining potential.

In addition to the Sedibelo West purchase, Platmin has also acquired an effective 50% interest in all of the platinum-exiting Barrick Gold’s power and water infrastructure rights, as well as assets to the east of the existing operations.

“We’ll never be hamstrung by water or the lack of electricity,” Frandsen tells Mining Weekly Online.

The transaction allows for seamless crossing of the current boundary into the adjoining relatively shallow property, also at 500 m depth, and which increases the inferred resource to 42-million tons at a grade of 4,38g/t in the western portion of the Sedibelo platinum group metal project concession.

The company has bought the downdip extension from the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela community and Itereleng Bakgatla Mineral Resources at a price that translates to $12,50 a platinum-group-metal (PGM) ounce.

Sedibelo West abuts the eastern limit of the Tuschenkomst operating pit, where PGM production is building up from 100 000 oz/y towards the 250 000 oz level stated in the bankable feasibility study.

“The transaction more than doubles our resource,” says Frandsen.

The acquisition of the Sedibelo West property extends mine life from 12 years to 30 years and gives direct access to sulphide ore, which achieves higher recoveries than oxide or transitional ore.

This new mining venture in Moruleng initially created 2 500 casual jobs during the mine’s construction phase and continues to provide employment and skills training for many community members.

“The transaction cements a long-standing partnership between the Bakgatla Traditional Council and Platmin, and will deliver value to shareholders, community members and to South Africa,” adds Gilbertson.

“Nature’s orebodies are not delineated by arbitrary farm fences. It was the Bakgatla’s vision – and one we share – to develop Pilanesberg and Sedibelo West in the most productive manner, which means one orebody, one mine.

“The acquisition of the Sedibelo West deposit will create mining flexibility and extend the life of our Pilanesberg mine with all the multiplier benefits of employment, foreign exchange, revenue to the fiscus and the economic and regional socioeconomic benefits that will be generated.

“Importantly, Platmin’s concentrator and other infrastructure will be used to process more PGM-bearing reef, making this one of the most productive acquisitions in the industry,” Gilbertson comments.

Mining is outsourced to MCC and the concentrator plant to Minopex. The nearby Northam platinum operation toll smelts the concentrated ore.