In a quarter of records, cash-flush Tharisa, a chrome and platinum group metal miner, reported its highest ever chrome concentrate and specialty chrome output as it focused on stripping waste at its opencast mine to expose the ore body.
Tharisa, which benefited in its 2017 financial year from high chrome prices and increased production, said chrome concentrate production in the quarter to the end of December, the first of its 2018 financial year, was up 1.5% quarter on quarter to a record 365,800 tonnes.
Specialty grade chrome, which achieves a sizeable price premium over ordinary chrome, was a record 88,100 tonnes, a 5.5% increase compared with the previous quarter.
Tharisa has set its sights on annual production of 2-million tonnes of chrome a year, including specialty grade chrome and 200,000oz of platinum group metals in just two years.
Tharisa kept its 2018 full-year production outlook intact, expecting to generate 150,000oz of PGMs and 1.4-million tonnes of chrome, of which 350,000 tonnes would be specialty chrome.
As part of its strategy, Tharisa bought the mining equipment and hired the staff of a contract miner, bringing mining under its full control. As part of the switch, Tharisa focused on removing waste rock covering the ore body at its opencast mine near Brits in North West. During the quarter, 2.7-million cubic metres of waste were mined, allowing the blending of ores ahead of
the processing plants to optimise recoveries.
Platinum and rhodium prices were firmer during the December quarter, leading to a $40/oz increase in the PGM price to $865/oz, or R11,827/oz.
The price of chrome was up 4% at $179 a tonne during the quarter, with the price above $200 a tonne based on chrome to be shipped in February.
Tharisa’s shares climbed 3%, giving it a capitalisation of R5.2bn and bringing its increase for the year so far to 8%.