Orion Minerals said it concluded a deal to further strengthen its black economic empowerment partnership in Prieska Resources. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg News

JOHANNESBURG - Australian explorer Orion Minerals said on Friday it had concluded a deal, first announced in April, to further strengthen its black economic empowerment partnership in Prieska Resources, by welcoming Safika Resources on board as a key partner.

Safika Resources is predominantly involved in manganese through its investment in and management of Ntsimbintle Holdings, which owns 37 percent of Tshipi é Ntle Manganese Mining. Tshipi é Ntle, in partnership with Australia’s Jupiter Mines, operates Tshipi Borwa, an open-pit manganese mine situated in South Africa's Northern Cape province.

Orion last month secured a A$378 million government grant for the development of its flagship Prieska copper-zinc project in Northern Cape.

Prieska Resources will ultimately hold a 20 percent stake in the project. Prieska Resources' shareholding will initially be made up of Safika Resources (44.72 percent), Black Star (17.31 percent), and the Kolobe Nala Investment (37.97 percent).

Orion's managing director and chief executive Errol Smart said Safika represented an ideal business partner in the Northern Cape.

"As a majority black owned business that founded an extremely successful mining operation by taking it from a grassroots beginnings by securing undeveloped prospecting rights, to now holding one of the largest interests in, and management of, one of South Africa’s most successful mining ventures and one of the world’s top manganese producers, is a tremendous badge of success," Smart said.

Safika chairman Saki Macozoma said the company looked forward to replicating its success in manganese achieved in the Tshipi Borwa mine that broke ground in 2011 and was the largest manganese ore exporter from South Africa in 2018.

"This transaction with Orion sees us further entrench our position with fellow Northern Cape shareholders to diversify into copper and zinc in the near term. The development of the Prieska mine should be another material boost to the Northern Cape economy," Macozoma said.

- African News Agency (ANA)