Pilot mining begins at Karo

Pilot mining has commenced at Karo Resources’ integrated platinum project in Mhondoro-Ngezi, while construction of a high-voltage power line to connect the mine to the national grid is set to begin shortly.

Karo is a unit of Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Tharisa Resources.

The multi-million-dollar venture — one of the Second Republic’s signature mining development projects — involves mining platinum, chrome and coal, and the establishment of a power plant, smelter and refinery to beneficiate platinum group metals (PGM).

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Karo Resources head of investor relations and communications Mr Ilja Graulich said pilot mining at the site had commenced.

Pilot mining is a small-scale mining operation that is conducted to test the feasibility of a larger-scale mining project.

It is typically done on a property that has already been explored and where there is a high degree of confidence that there is a commercial amount of ore.

He said: “The project, as it stands, remains on track. The major development since we last spoke is that the pouring of cement for the major metallurgical complex has started and we have begun opening the pits for trial mining. Pilot mining commenced, with the contractor and staff on site to start operational tests. Concrete foundation pouring is progressing well, with earthworks nearing completion.

“The manufacturing of long-lead items is progressing as planned, with the first major deliveries scheduled for the fourth quarter (of the year), while construction of the power line will commence this quarter.”

Mr Graulich said Karo was finalising discussions with financiers to fund completion of the project.

“At this stage, Tharisa has provided the funding. As you know and as publicly stated, we are finalising discussions on debt funding for Karo. On project-specific financing, capex numbers have not shifted; we have budgeted US$391 million for the project to reach production.”

While implementation of the project has faced some major hurdle, he said, it was still within set time lines.

“The challenges we have faced are all in line with development of a project of this scale.

“However, we have an excellent team on site, who have dealt with these issues in the past.

“So, nothing unusual that we have not encountered before,” said Mr Graurich.

Plans to build a PGM refinery and a 300MW solar power plant remain on course.

“The 300MW project was always in phases, with phase one being 30MW.

“The time line for this project’s completion has also not changed, and it is coming online, in time for first production from Karo.

“Construction of our PGM refinery is our phase two, when we start our initial mining at Karo.”

To date, 540 people have been employed under the project’s first phase.

The Sunday Mail

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