File picture: Nadine Hutton
JOHANNESBURG - The Unki mine owned by Anglo Platinum in Zimbabwe will use its concentrator capacity to process excess ore carried over from the quarter period to December, which was disturbed by scheduled maintenance as the company readies to bring online its smelter facility this year.

The scheduled stoppage of processing owing to the concentrator maintenance forced the mine’s platinum group metals (PGM) production for the period to sag by 16percent to 36600 ounces. Zimbabwe also has two other South African-owned platinum mines, Zimplats and Mimosa.

Zimplats was building a mine to replace two mines that are nearing depletion, while Mimosa was undertaking on-reef expansion and Unki is revamping its underground operations and equipment to enhance efficiencies and production, officials said.

“We have been looking at our processes and equipment with a view to improve this and grow our production where we can. This is significant ahead of the smelter project finalisation,” said an official.

Anglo Platinum has not been able to respond to requests for information regarding its Zimbabwe operation over the past year.

Later this year, Unki mine will bring on board a smelter facility at Shurugwi, but before that it has to treat excess ore this quarter carried over from last year. This will bring it in line with Zimbabwe’s requirements that the South African platinum groups process the precious metal inside Zimbabwe before export.

“Unki PGM production decreased 16percent to 36600 ounces due to planned maintenance to the mill feed silo at the concentrator, which was completed in December 2017. The ore stockpile ahead of the concentrator will be processed in 2018,” Anglo Platinum said in a quarterly report for the period to end December yesterday.

The world number one miner of the metal also clarified that “platinum production was down 18percent to 16400 ounces and palladium was down 14percent to 14200 ounces”.

Zimbabwe is looking up to its mining sector for forex earnings and had been boosted by a spike in gold production from around 21tons in 2016 to 24.8tons by the end of 2017, Fidelity Printers, a division of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said on Wednesday.

“By year-end 2017, Fidelity had managed to reach a target of 24.8tons. Of the 24.8tons, small scale miners contributed 13.2tons, while primary producers delivered a total of 11.7tons,” the reserve bank unit responsible for gold marketing in Zimbabwe said.