A huge mineral deposit recently discovered in Limpopo province is even bigger than previously thought, and represents "enormous good news" for the future of platinum mining in South Africa, the head of Canadian company Ivanplats announced at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Located on the northern limb of South Africa's Bushveld Complex, the Platreef (or Flatreef) discovery is a massive deposit offering high-quality metals - "650-million tons of indicated and referred resources in a six square kilometre area", Robert Friedland, the chairman of Ivanhoe Capital Corporation and the executive chairman of Ivanplats, Robert Friedland, told Indaba delegates.
Clean, sustainable model promised
In exploiting this reserve, the company promises a clean model, to be environmentally responsible, to have zero fatalities and to be sustainable. It would have a better model of employment and pay above-average wages, and it would have a "very broad-based black economic empowerment" component.
It would deliver benefits beyond its mine, Friedland promised, including jobs and new skills. "Beneficiation will be our key driver. We can make catalytic convertors and jewellery right here."
He said that an intensive drilling programme in 2011 and 2012 had dramatically expanded and upgraded Platreef's precious and base-metal mineral resources.
Massive Bushveld deposit
Bloomberg reported recently that Platreef's indicated mineral resources now totalled 223-million tons at a grading of 4.1 grams per ton of platinum, palladium, gold and rhodium, at a cumulative, average true thickness of 24.3 metres. It also has nickel and copper.
"Flatreef is distinguished from other Bushveld projects by its tremendous size, the remarkable thickness of the polymetallic mineralised reef and its potential for significant by-product credits of nickel and copper," Friedland said on Wednesday.
"The successful upgrading and expansion of the selective high-grade underground resources advance the definition of the initial mine plan in which we intend to incorporate safe, efficient, large-scale, mechanised mining methods."
Possible South African listing
Friedland said Ivanplats would apply to the Department of Mineral Resources for a mining licence "that will have a large BBBEE [broad-based black economic empowerment] component."
The Canadian company, which has been exploring in Africa since 1994, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in October 2012. "We are now thinking of listing in South Africa as our secondary listing. Having been here, we think a listing in South Africa is more appropriate than London."
Friedland said it was critical to generate sustainable livelihoods around mines. "We must build mines where younger mine workers are more like skilled surgeons." Also, the buyers of the end products - the car buyers in Japan, for example - would want to know the product was built with more than muscle power, and that the community around the mine was benefiting too.
"We need to work here, find and forge a new economic model," Friedland said, adding that it was "enormous good news" for South Africa that the discovery was in this country, which already produced 75% of the world's primary platinum.
Friedland was also very upbeat on the future of Africa, and South Africa in particular. "This is the beginning of incredible economic growth in Africa. Seven of the top 10 countries in terms of GDP [gross domestic product] growth are in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa will have greater GDP growth," he said. "So I am very optimistic about the future of this country."
He also predicted continuing demand for metals, saying there would be 37 megacities around the world by 2020. "All will need metals, particularly platinum to clean the air," as well as copper and iron for high-speed trains. "We have come to a point of no return. Planet Earth is going urban. And an urban world is immensely consumptive of metals."