Karo Mining Resources, which was last year granted a platinum concession on Zimbabwe’s Great Dyke, says its exploration programme is ahead of schedule and expects mine development to start next year.
Karo is driven by Tharisa Plc founder Loucas Pouroulis and his son Phoevos. The JSE-listed Tharisa owns 27% of Karo.
Pouroulis was in the country last week and led Karo’s executive team which took President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the exploration site to assess progress.
The Karo special grant sits on nearly 24,000 hectares ceded by Zimplats about 100 kilometres to the west of Harare.
“We are past half-way of our first phase of exploration, which entails 30 kilometres of diamond core drilling. We, to date, have drawn 18,500 metres of diamond core drilling and 115 holes. By all accounts, this is an exceptionally fast programme of exploration.
“As a group, we explore in many countries in Africa, this is by far the fastest exploration programme we’ve undertaken,” Phoevos Pouroulis said in his address after a tour of the exploration site.
“In terms of this first phase of exploration, we’ve completed an extensive aeromagnetic survey, where we’ve flown the vast land of almost 24,000 hectares, we’ve done digital terrain mapping as well as the aeromagnetic and geophysics studies.”
Karo’s consulting geologist, Stony Steenekamp, told reporters indications had so far shown huge potential.
“From what we know, from the neighbours on both sides of us, from initial information we’ve got, we are very positive that this will become a big mine,” Steenekamp said, adding the first phase of exploration is expected to be concluded by the end of 2019.
The Karo special grant lies between Zimplats’ Ngezi assets and the area where Global Platinum Resources has been drilling.
“The intention, by the end of this calendar year, is to have identified the resource or declare the resource, quantify it in millions of ounces of PGMs, identify the first viable open pit for construction in the calendar year 2020 and completion in 2021. Thereafter, we will roll each open pit consecutively for the next four years,” the younger Pouroulis said.
“As the CEO of Tharisa, one of the major shareholders of Karo, I have often presented this project internationally to potential investors and I categorise this project as a tier-one project. What it means is it has large scale, it has long life, it has the ability to change the dynamics of the country, of the communities, of the GDP.”
Mines Minister Winston Chitando, who was part of Mnangagwa’s retinue, said government would soon announce more investors to be given platinum concessions.
Currently, the country has three operational platinum mines, Impala’s Zimplats, Anglo American Platinum’s Unki and Mimosa, which is a 50:50 joint venture between Impala and Sibanye-Stillwater.
Another major platinum project, with a reported 17,6 million ounce PGM and gold ore resource, is being developed in Darwendale by Great Dyke Investments, a joint venture between Russia’s JSC Afromet and Pen East of Zimbabwe.
Now, government is actively encouraging more investors into the sector, as it seeks to expand mining revenue from US$4.2 billion to US$12 billion by 2023, Chitando said.
“We do have four geological platinum ore bodies in the country. In simple terms, one can look at the Ngezi geological complex and sub-divide it into four; the area held by Zimplats, the area which has been granted to Karo Resources and two others which I won’t mention,” the minister said.
“The whole idea is to ensure that all the ore bodies in the Shurugwi geological complex and the Ngezi geological complex are made operational and that, certainly, will be achieved. It means the two (concessions) in the Ngezi geological complex and one other in the Shurugwi geological complex that will, in the next few weeks, be concluded and made public.”
Despite hosting the operations of the world’s top two platinum producers, Amplats and Implats, Zimbabwe has struggled to attract significant investment into its mining sector, mainly due to fears over property rights.
“This country has suffered punitive sanctions for nearly two decades. During that period, we have suffered isolation from the rest of the international family,” Mnangagwa said.
“We have now introduced a policy of engagement and re-engagement, we are now receiving positive signals in most world capitals through that re-engagement policy.”
Mnangagwa is desperate to see movement on pledged foreign investments, which his critics say have not materialised as he promised.
“A few months after we had our ground breaking, the media began saying these mega deals are fantasy, a pie in the sky, but now I am sure you know that the pie is never in the sky but on the ground here in Ngezi,” Mnangagwa said.