Legacy mine waste and tailings facilities have come under the spotlight as government, businesses and consumers become increasingly conscious of the need to reduce their potentially environment-harming footprints.
This is creating ideal opportunities for AIM/AltX-listed metals recovery company Jubilee Metals to successfully fulfil its strategic objective to expand its project portfolio. LAURA CORNISH spoke to business development manager GARETH OWEN to find out more.
Jubilee has a two-fold strategic business focus: Driving value and profitability through the recovery of metals from waste materials while delivering significant environmental benefit to the regions in which it operates.
“The world is becoming increasingly conscious of its environmental impact and consumers and investors are looking to capitalise on ventures that deliver economic benefit, but in an environmentally responsible manner,” says Owen.
Jubilee Metals stands to gain as a result considering the company’s entire focus delivers on both of these fronts – reducing mine waste and negative environmental legacies left behind by mining.
And while its project portfolio before 2019 was relatively small – the company has quickly expanded. 2019 saw it acquire the Windsor PGM and chrome operation in South Africa and also take its first step over the border where it acquired a base metals processing facility in Zambia.
“The amount of surface/waste material available for reprocessing – globally – presents a massive opportunity for Jubilee and we are positioning ourselves to capture this market, both in the SADC region and further afield in mature mining regions such as South America and Australasia.
“The intention is also to constantly look at de-risking the business and this entails expanding our commodity focus. Through our recent acquisitions, we believe this success has already started to materialise,” Owen continues.
A closer look at the business
To ensure it obtains maximum value from the businesses/operations it acquires, Jubilee Metals undergoes extensive research, development and test work exercises to determine the optimal value it can extract from the facilities it purchases.
“We pride ourselves on our internal physical separation expertise which not only helps us access potential projects but has recently enabled us to improve chrome recoveries at our Dilokong chrome mine (DCM) operation,” Owen highlights.
He outlines the company’s current portfolio in more detail:
DCM is a chrome beneficiation facility, situated in the Limpopo province, with a design capacity to process up to 30 000 tpm of feed material. The project was ramped up to commercial production levels in May 2019 and holds the exclusive rights to beneficiate more than 850 000 t from surface material.
In Q1, 2019, the company commissioned its first ever ground-breaking fine chrome recovery plant at DCM which has since proven successful in recovering chrome particles below a particle size of 40 microns, previously thought to be unrecoverable.
This technology, implemented together with Jubilee Metals’ international technology partners, now enables the Group to reprocess its own material previously lost to the waste.
Consequently, the company is now targeting the recovery of PGMs contained in the nearly 800 000 tonnes of tailings from the DCM fine chrome operation.
The fine chrome recovery circuit at DCM targets a feed rate of 25 000 tpm (which was in achieved in Q2) and is able to produce 8 000 tpm of chrome concentrate from fine chrome alone.
“Fine chrome recovery technology has never successfully been achieved at the volumes we are doing,” Owen highlights.
Jubilee Metals’ Windsor operation – a chrome and PGM retreatment operation – is situated on the Western Limb of the Bushveld Complex in the North West Province.
The company’s PGM circuit operation was commissioned in July 2019 and reached a saleable PGM concentrate production in August 2019. It has a processing joint venture agreement in place with Northam’s Eland Platinum, for further refining of the PGM rich surface materials from the Windsor chrome operation – targeting a processing rate of 60 000 t of PGM-rich material per month.
Jubilee initially acquired the Windsor chrome operation – along with a large volume of surface tailings in January 2019. Since the acquisition, the company has invested in upgrading the processing capacity and efficiency of the operation which today has a feed processing capacity of 75 000 tpm.
On the back of the successful fine chrome recovery circuit implemented at DCM, Jubilee Metals is looking to soon implement this technology here – targeted for completion in 2020.
“Windsor provides Jubilee with the perfect consolidation opportunity – a PGM and chrome processing facility that is well positioned to treat the vast quantities of chrome and PGM tailings material in the larger Bushveld Complex region,” Owen notes.
The third operation in South Africa, and Jubilee’s flagship operation, Inyoni, is located at the Hernic Ferrochrome processing facility near Windsor. It is the largest of its kind in the chrome industry, with a capacity in excess of 55 000 tpm, targeting the recovery of PGMs and chrome contained in historical surface tailings and current arising from Hernic’s operations.
An agreement concluded in the latter half of 2019 has also seen Jubilee acquire 100% of the rights to PGM earnings from the current and future tailings produced at the Hernic operations.
In addition to the current unprocessed 1.7 Mt of historical tailings and the 630 000 t of previously processed tailings, Jubilee has acquired the rights to some further 1 Mt of PGM rich material. Jubilee has further entered into an exclusive agreement to sell its chrome to market, and not internally to Hernic.
The next step
2019 also saw Jubilee officially take its first step over the South African border – after completing the acquisition of the Sable Zinc refinery in Kabwe which has the potential to process zinc, lead and vanadium in addition to its current copper and cobalt production.
“This step reinforced our strategy to diversify our commodity mix (which now includes base metals) and geographical footprint and demonstrates that the Jubilee management team are fast tracking its objectives to grow the business within the waste-to-metal recovery business,” Owen states.
“The intention again is to use the Sable facility as a centralised facility to process base metals across the Zambian region,” Owen continues.
Based on the level of acquisitive action in 2019, it looks likely that Jubilee will maintain its momentum in rapidly expanding its business.
“This company is still in its infancy stage and the opportunities we are exposed to as a result of our sustainable-focused business model are indicative of the potential that lies within this company to grow,” Owen concludes.