Karo Mining Holdings has commenced exploration to delineate the platinum group metals (PGM) resource at its mining concession on Zimbabwe's mineral rich Great Dyke. Located in Mhondoro-Ngezi mineral belt west of Harare where Zimplats -- the country's largest platinum company -- has operations, the integrated US$4,2 billion project will also include a coal mine and a 300 megawatts (MW) solar plant.
On completion, it will be Zimbabwe's largest integrated platinum mining and refinery operation.
"In the last quarter of 2018, Karo Platinum was awarded a development permit from the EMA (Environmental Management Agency)," said Karo in a statement on Wednesday.
"The development permit enabled Karo Platinum to initiate field work and the exploration drilling programme. The first drilling contractor has mobilised and has completed 72 diamond core boreholes totally over 12 000 metres. The drilling campaign is focused on the western edge of the Great Dyke on the mining location and the boreholes targeting average depths of 50 to 150m below surface.
"A second drilling contractor has recently mobilised on the eastern edge of the Great Dyke."
Karo said the quality assurance and quality control programme was being carried out concurrently with the drilling programme. The results from the assay work and the metallurgical test work would form the basis of the next phase of the project, which include the continuation of drilling, resource estimation and feasibility studies for mine design, infrastructure and beneficiation plants, it added.
In consultation with the Zimbabwean Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), it was established that the 300MW of solar generated power would not be able to be fed into a single substation to the national grid. As such, a total of five sites have been identified to receive the solar generated power in 50MW modules.
The first site, closely located to the Karo Platinum project will receive the first 100MW in two modules and ZETDC has commissioned the necessary grid impact studies for the selected sites.
Karo Power, a subsidiary of Karo Holdings has appointed a technical consultant to conduct the feasibility studies and an environmental consultant to submit the environmental prospectus to the EMA and to complete the necessary EIA on all five sites.
Karo Power has had initial engagements with the Zimbabwean Energy Regulator (ZERA) around the power purchase agreement and independent power producer (IPP) licence.
Substantive negotiations regarding the power purchase agreement will commence with ZERA next month. Once finalised, the IPP licence can be applied for.
Tharisa acquired a 26,8 percent shareholding in Karo Mining Holdings, giving it access to a tier one PGM and base metal resource situated on the Great Dyke. The Great Dyke contains the world's largest known PGM deposits outside of South Africa.
Apart from Zimplats, a unit of Impala Platinum Holdings, Anglo America also has operations on Great Dyke. Great Dyke Investments, a joint venture between Zimbabwe and Russia is also working on developing a platinum mine on the mineral belt in Darwerndale.
Part of the funding will come from Pan-African multilateral financial institution African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), while another Pan-African development finance institution Africa Finance Corporation, will also weigh in with additional funding. At least US$3 billion is expected to be spend on the project.