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Sibanye Stillwater: Gold and Green

As Sibanye Stillwater enters its 10th year of business it is a leading force in the precious metal mining industry. The company is a multinational mining and metals processing group boasting a diverse portfolio of mining, processing operation, projects, and investments across 5 continents. With operations taking place across the globe, Sibanye Stillwater mines a whole host of metals including platinum, palladium, rhodium, and gold. It also produces and refines iridium and ruthenium, nickel, chrome, copper, and cobalt. More recently, they have begun to diversify their portfolio by looking at lithium and other battery metal mining and processing. Consequently, their operations internationally position them as a powerhouse for precious metal mining that is consciously aware of reducing its impact on the world.  

Sibanye Stillwater’s operations are vast and widespread, bringing innovation globally to their mining projects. Gold was the first metal to be mined by Sibanye Stillwater in South Africa, where currently there are two gold mining projects taking place. Burnstone is a shallow developmental stage gold mine located in the South Rand Goldfield of the Witwatersrand Basin, covering a total area of 13.135 hectares. The project aims to target a steady state production of approximately 90 thousand tonnes per month by 2027. The Southern Free State (SOFS) project is an advanced exploration stage project in the Bloemhoek, De Bron-Merriespruit, Robijn and Hakkies areas, and is adjacent to another of their operations in Beatrix in the Free State province of South Africa. The SOFS assets were acquired in July 2014 from Wits Gold, and in 2017 the mining right consolidation of the four areas of the property was approved for 23 years. Collectively, these projects produced a combined gold mineral reserve of 2.6 million ounces (Moz) and combined gold resources of 16.0 Moz as of December 2021, to position them as a top-tier gold producer.  

Sibanye Stillwater is also making waves in the mining of platinum group metals (PGMs). PGMs are the combination of platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium, and osmium which, to varying proportions, tend to occur together in the same geological deposit. It is this combination of metals due to their chemical and physical properties that make the PGMs so valuable in their end markets. Sibanye Stillwater has two PGM operations in America with Stillwater and Boulder located in Montana. Both operations extract and process PGM ore from the J-M Reef, which is the only known significant source of PGMs in the US and the highest-grade PGM deposit in the world. These PGM metals are crucial to the profitable automobile market. Sibanye Stillwater owns the Columbus Metallurgical Complex also in Montana, which smelts the material mined from their operations to produce PGM-rich filter cake and recycles auto catalysts to recover PGMs. Consequently, their operations in America to mine PGMs are increasingly profitable for the large automobile market in the production of auto-catalysts.  

Evidently, the automobile market is crucial for Sibanye Stillwater, which is seen even further in their projects mining Lithium. While lithium has been used for years in a variety of ways, in recent years its main applications have been in the manufacturing of batteries prominently in electric cars. These batteries are popular for their ability to be lightweight, retain energy for long periods and are rechargeable, and so also feature crucially in many consumer electronics and the energy sector. Sibanye-Stillwater has accessed the battery metals sector through a partnership and investment into Keliber, a leading European lithium project located in Finland. It’s a strategic step by Sibanye Stillwater towards a greener future to mine metals that benefit the sustainable manufacturing market. This strategy was furthered in 2022 by acquiring a 100% stake in Sandouville, a nickel hydrometallurgical processing facility in France, to build a leading battery metals platform in Europe. 

Sustainability is a key concern for Sibanye Stillwater, especially when they are mining natural capital. This is not something they shy away from in their mission towards more sustainable mining, and so have developed a multifaceted approach to their operations to both create value in the metals they are mining, whilst remaining committed to minimising environmental degradation.  

Sibanye Stillwater’s Commitments to the environment include: 

  • Building a portfolio of green metals 
  • Active participation in the circular economy through recycling 
  • Pursuing carbon neutrality  
  • Sustainably managing our water use 
  • Promoting biodiversity  
  • Driving responsible water management 
  • Rehabilitating affected land in accordance with stakeholder aligned closure plans 
  • Global best practice in tailings management 
  • Celebrating our rich cultural heritage  

We can see from Sibanye Stillwater’s commitments that developing a portfolio of green metals is crucial moving forward. The world of hybrid and fully electric cars is the future and so Sibanye Stillwater’s green metal portfolio continues to expand in line with the demand for greener vehicles. Further, as part of its ongoing commitment to reducing its impact on the climate, Sibanye Stillwater is committed, as per the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to transition to carbon neutrality by 2040. They intend to do this through their energy and decarbonisation strategies and associated implementation plans that they believe to be both clear and achievable.  

In a further effort to bring sustainable impact to its operations, Sibanye Stillwater ensures the local community remains a focus of all its projects globally. They are committed to providing employment opportunities and driving economic growth wherever they operate. They are directly responsible for large-scale employment in many of their countries of operation, including South Africa where they are the country’s largest employer, outside of the government, with close to 1.2 million people being employed. Consequently, they are keen to ensure that their operations have wide-reaching economic impacts in the regions in which they operate through direct and indirect paths of employment for the local communities.   

Overall, Sibanye Stillwater leads the way in mining innovation, taking its origins as a productive and lucrative mine for gold, then extending to PGM and now green battery metals to position the company as a crucial player in the development of the mining industry especially as sustainability becomes such an important conversation to be had in this sector.