Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

WESIZWE Platinum is talking to its neighbour, the Styldrift mine, about possibly sharing a concentrator plant.

Wesizwe is looking for base metal opportunities in primarily nickel and copper, chief operating officer Paul Smith said at the company’s annual general meeting on Monday.

The miner is constructing a deep-level platinum mine just south of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, and it is bound on two sides by neighbours also building mines.

Previously, Wesizwe and Canada’s Platinum Group Metals had spoken about a shared concentrator, but due to a slightly different metallurgy, among other factors, this plan did not reach fruition.

Discussions continued with Royal Bafokeng Platinum, the owner of Styldrift, Mr Smith said.

Styldrift is two years more advanced than Wesizwe’s Bakubung mine, which is 14% complete and will come into production in 2018.

"We chat a lot with Styldrift and I think exciting opportunities will come out of that," Mr Smith said.

There are synergies to be explored around power, water and housing, for example, where the companies could share costs.

One of the big-ticket items is a shared concentrator where raw ore is treated and the quantity of platinum group metals per tonne is increased ahead of refining.

"It certainly has merit but we’d need a proper feasibility study, which we plan to do. Then we can make decisions," Mr Smith said.

There were discussions about other issues, he said, but declined to comment further.

Wesizwe is looking to grow platinum and base metals in South Africa and Southern Africa respectively, he said.

South Africa is home to the world’s largest-known platinum deposit, but Wesizwe is not looking for base metal deposits in the country. It is looking in countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Tanzania, he said.

A shareholder at the meeting quizzed Mr Smith as to why Wesizwe would consider base metals instead of remaining a pure platinum player.

"The decision was taken by the board to focus on other strategically aligned commodities and we won’t stray far from those which are already associated with platinum group metals like nickel and copper," he said.

"We will go into this with our eyes open," he said.

The Bakubung project is on track. There was slight slippage in the sinking of the ventilation shaft, which has been corrected.

The mine will produce 350,000oz of platinum group metals over a 35-year span, ramping up from 2018 to reach full production in 2023.

The nominal capital cost of the project is R7.9bn and the real cost, factoring in inflation, is more than R12bn. The project is funded by a Chinese consortium, including Jinchuan Group, a large mining company, for up to $650m.

Further funding will be raised in the form of debt and equity, Mr Smith said, adding there was no immediate need for the funds. "Given where the markets are we don’t want to jump into something inappropriate," he said.