London, England — MININGREVIEW.COM — 30 June 2008 – The encouraging results of an independent audit of the feasibility study into the Sheba’s Ridge nickel and platinum group metals (PGM) project has prompted Ridge Mining plc – an AIM-listed company focussing on its prospective PGM projects on the Bushveld Complex – to consider construction of a smelter in South Africa.
In a statement released in London, the company revealed that, based on these results, it would now commission a bankable feasibility study (BFS) into new shared independent smelting facilities in South Africa.
The study audit confirmed the project to have an ore reserve containing 740,000 tonnes of nickel (1.6 billion lbs), 290,000 tonnes copper (630 million lbs) and 10.7 million oz of PGE’s, ranking it as one of the largest projects of its type in Africa.
Ridge Mining plans to extract 18 million tonnes of ore pa and process 630 000 tonnes of concentrate pa over a planned mine life of 20 years. This includes 53 million lbs of nickel, 26 million lbs of copper, 85 000 oz of platinum, 243 000 oz of palladium and 20 000 oz of gold. Initial estimates put the total cost of the project at US$972 million (almost R7.8 billion).
The feasibility study covered all aspects of the project through to the production of concentrate. There is, however, insufficient smelting capacity currently available in South Africa to further process the more than 600 000 tonnes of concentrate that the mine will produce each year, hence the feasibility study into a dedicated smelter.
Based on the successful outcome of the project study and audit, the board has approved the commissioning of the independent smelting BFS.
Ridge and its partner, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Ltd (IDC), are in advanced discussions with Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd (Impala) and African Rainbow Minerals Ltd (ARM) to form a joint venture to undertake the BFS into the independent smelter.
In addition Ridge is undertaking further studies with Pace Power Consultants to examine alternatives to reduce reliance on grid supply from Eskom due to the current and projected power supply constraints.
On completion of these studies the company will be in a position to announce a development decision, the statement said.
Ridge chief executive Terence Wilkinson commented: “We are proceeding with the feasibility study on the shared smelter and the power and project optimisation studies necessary for a development decision. Discussions are also continuing with third parties interested in buying into the project to help fund the eventual capital development costs,” he added.