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Impala Platinum Holdings Limited: PGMs – The Metal of the Future

As one of the world’s foremost platinum group metals (PGMs) producers, Impala Platinum Holdings Limited (Implats) is a South African company with key ownership of a range of mines across South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Canada. PGMs are some of the most crucial metals used in essential medical, electronic, and industrial markets today, whilst playing a vital role in moving the world towards a cleaner and more sustainable future. Therefore, as Implats continues to provide a better future for its stakeholders, it is striving to be the most valued and responsible metal producer across the industry on a global sustainability scale.  

The Implats Group is a fully integrated PGM producer, which has structured its current operations around 6 key mining operations across the globe, as well as its refining business Impala Refining Services (IRS). These metals serve vast markets from Japan, China, the US, and Europe as the use of PGMs are used across industries to manufacture things such as hard disks, mobile phones, aircraft, turbines, anti-cancer drugs, dental implants, industrial catalysts, and ceramic glazes – to name just a few uses. Therefore, the demand for these metals is ever-increasing, especially for their predominant use in the environmental field in autocatalytic converters, which reduce outdoor air pollution by being fitted to cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other mobile machinery. Consequently, the demand for PGMs in today’s world is ever evolving as we strive towards a more sustainable future across every industry.  

Implats owns two of the most significant PGM-bearing ore bodies in the world located at its Bushveld Complex in South Africa and the Great Dyke in Zimbabwe. The Bushveld Complex in South Africa comprises 3 operations: Impala Rustenburg, Two Rivers, and Impala Refining Services. Impala Rustenburg is a 96% owned primary subsidiary mining operation of Implats which is situated on the Western limb of the Bushveld Complex in South Africa. The complex comprises a concentrating and smelting plant servicing its nine-shaft-mining complex which is mined predominately through conventional breast mining. The Two Rivers mining operation, however, is a joint venture with African Rainbow Minerals who own 54% of the operation, with Implats owning 46%. This mining operation comprises two on-reef decline shafts and a concentrator plant. Located on the Dwarsrivier farm in the southern eastern limb of the Bushveld Complex. The Two Rivers complex has a life of mine off-take agreement with Impala Refining Services (IRS) and sees its entire mining operation fully mechanised with the bord and pillar method employed.  

The final mining operation across the Bushveld Complex in South Africa includes the Marula mining operation which is one of the first operations developed on the relatively under-explored eastern limb of the Bushveld Complex. Marula holds two contiguous mining rights covering 5494 hectares (ha) across the farms Winaarshoek and Clapham, and portions of the farms Driekop and Forest Hill. The operations there use hybrid and conventional mining methods operating in the Limpopo province, northwest of Burgersfort. As a result of Implats’ success across South Africa, they announced in 2021 the approval of the Two Rivers Merensky project, as well as two additional mining projects which were approved during 2022 for the Marula Phase II UG2 project and the North Hill project at Mimosa. These projects result in a significant increase in the Mineral Reserve position at both operations and it will have an overall significant positive impact across the Group’s portfolio level.  

Furthermore, the Bushveld Complex also includes its Impala Refining Services (IRS) which is a division dedicated to vehicle housing toll-refining and metal concentrate purchases built up by Implats. IRS provides smelting and refining services through offtake agreements with Group companies (except Impala) and third parties. Consequently, the Bushveld Complex highlights how Implats has structured its operations to establish and maintain close relationships with its stakeholders while operating within a Group-wide framework that is striving towards managing the economic, social, and environmental implications of its operations in terms of sustainability.  

In Zimbabwe, Zimplats is an 87% owned operation by Implats and is located on the Hartley Geological Complex on the Zimbabwean Great Dyke southwest of Harare. The Hartley Geological Complex is one of the largest PGM resources containing 80% of the known PGM in Zimbabwe, of which two-thirds is held by Zimplats. The Zimplats operation contains four shallow mechanised underground mines, as well as one open-pit and two concentrators at Ngezi. Furthermore, the Selous Metallurgical Complex (SMC), is located north of its underground operations and contains a smelter and concentrator.  

The other key operation in Zimbabwe is the Implats’ 50/50 jointly held venture with Sibanye Stillwater secured over years of key acquisitions by each company. Located on the Wedza Geological Complex on the Zimbabwean Great Dyke, the operation includes a shallow underground mine, accessed by a decline shaft and a concentrator. The Mimosa operation holds contiguous mining rights over 6,594 hectares on the North Hill, South Hill, Mtshingwe Block and Far South Hill orebody areas. Consequently, Implats operations across Zimbabwe exemplify the vital role of Zimbabwe in contributing to global PGM production, whilst also establishing Implats as a global company that is working across these key resource areas to deliver this metal towards a sustainable future.  

The final operation under Implats is in its wholly owned subsidiary of The Lac des Iles Mine (LDI), which is Impala’s single operating asset located in the Canadian province of Ontario. Implats acquired the mine in 2019, having previously been owned by North American Palladium. The operation comprises underground and surface mining operations, as well as a concentrator.  Employing long-hole open stope and sub-level shrinkage mining methods, the mine life is set to span 10 years which currently has an average depth developing to 1080km. Therefore, as we have seen Implats’ role across the PGM industry is vast, recognising the major role that PGM innovation and development with play for the future of the planet. Consequently, its operations across South Africa, Canada, and Zimbabwe access some of the most crucial PGM deposits in the world and highlight the cooperative approach that must be taken through joint ownership and strategic acquisitions to develop the industry towards prolonged economic success.  

Furthermore, in developing the company towards the future, Implats announced in May this year that Implats has secured a 9.26% shareholding in Royal Batokeng Platinum (RBPlat), which together with previous acquisitions sees Implats take majority control over RBPlat at 55.46%. This acquisition secures Implats’ commitment to implementing broad-based equity ownership in the South African PGM sector. Nico Miller, CEO of Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., outlined in the press release for this acquisition that “Implats is strongly committed to growing and securing the competitiveness and sustainability of the southern African PGM sector. Through our significant investments in life-of-mine extensions, growth and beneficiations, and with our ongoing support and facilitation of socio-economic development in our mine-host communities, we are dedicated to creating a better future and delivering enduring benefits for all stakeholders.”  

Miller continues that, “Our capital investment programme, together with our acquisitions of a controlling stake in RBPlat, will position southern Africa more competitively as a stable and responsible global mine-to-market PGM producer. We believe in strong and sustainable PGM industry is in the national and regional interest.” As we can see from Miller’s comments Implats is on a mission to be the most valued and responsible metals producer, which is crucially conscious of the vital role it must play in building a better future for its stakeholders and importantly the communities in which they operate.  

Overall, Implats is leading the PGM industry towards an ever evolving future. As the demand for PGM’s increases, as we move in global industries towards more sustainable futures, companies such as Implats have already begun to expand its operations to strategically place the company as a key facilitator to these vast and expanding industries, especially those which are contributing towards a more sustainable. Furthermore, as the company announced in June 2023, Patrick Morutlwa took over as Group Operating Officer (COO), and Mark Munroe has been appointed Group Chief Technical Officer (CTO) which will oversee the company for the coming years as the demand for PGM’s globally continues to skyrocket.