Tharisa Minerals told investors that its output fell in the year to September compared to the prior year after shaking up its mining operations. Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – JSE-listed Tharisa Minerals on Tuesday told investors that its output fell in the year ended in September compared to the prior year after shaking up its mining operations.

The group said Platinum Group Metal (PGM) production declined to 139 700 ounces during the period compared to 152 200 ounces in September 2018.

It said chrome concentrates production dropped to 1.29 million tons compared with 1.44m tons a year earlier.

Tharisa chief executive Phoevos Pouroulis said the company had significantly reset its mining operations in the year under review with a revised pit layout, an improvement in waste stripping, and the de-bottlenecking of the production plants. 

“Though this translated into lower production than last year's record performance, the significant work done provides Tharisa with a clear path to delivering on our Vision 2020 strategy,” he said, adding that the key remaining investment, the Vulcan plant, was under construction and remained firmly on track for commissioning in the fourth quarter of 2020. 

“We have focused our energy in the right places and have invested in both our workforce and machinery, which will ensure we have the right tools to achieve our targets.” 

Pouroulis said the company's Zimbabwean development pipeline, especially with Karo Platinum, was completing phase one of the exploration programme with positive results apparent at this early stage.

He said Tharisa benefited from a 17.1 percent jump in the PGM price to $1 081 (R16 447.50) an ounce during the year under review from $923 an ounce in 2018. 

Pouroulis said chrome prices had, however, been problematic after receiving a 12.9 percent drop in the chrome price in 2019 to $162 a ton from $186 a ton in 2018. 

“Disappointingly, spot prices have thus far failed to rise above $160 a ton,” he said.

Tharisa said production guidance for the 2020 financial year was between 155 000 ounces of PGMs and 165 000 ounces of PGMs.

It said it expected to produce between 1.45 million and 1.55 million tons of chrome concentrates in 2020.

The forecast was higher than the 2019 financial production guidance of 160 000 ounces of PGMs and 1.5 million tons of chrome concentrates, of which 375 000 would be speciality grade chrome concentrates.

Tharisa is involved in mining, processing, beneficiation, marketing, sales and logistics.

It said the construction on the Vulcan Plant has commenced, with civil works due to be completed before Christmas. In January Tharisa was evaluating the construction of two new plants with a combined capital cost of about R600m as part of its Vision 2020 strategy.

The group said the first of these was the Vulcan Plant, which would facilitate additional recovery of fine chrome from tailings streams.

Tharisa shares closed unchanged at R20.30 on the JSE on Tuesday.