Tharisa eyes Zimbabwe’s battery minerals potential amidst power cut issues

Tharisa, a producer of South Africa’s chrome and platinum group metals (PGMs), today announced that it is expanding into Zimbabwe to tap into the battery mineral potential. This decision which is expected to deliver result early next year was made known by its CEO Phoevos Pouroulis.

By this expansion into the Great Dyke area of Zimbabwe, Tharisa is looking at increasing its investments in platinum and chrome output as it bets on continued consumption despite expectations of reduced auto-sector demand.

“The world’s parking lots are still dominated by internal combustion engines and will be for some time,” CEO Phoevos Pouroulis told Reuters in an interview.

Platinum and palladium are used for reducing emissions from gasoline and diesel vehicles. The platinum industry also has its sights on the need for platinum in hydrogen fuel cells, especially for industrial trucks in remote places.

Just like several other African countries, Zimbabwe boasts of having minerals that are used in making batteries such as Nickel Vanadium and Lithium. Zimbabwe, currently one of the top 10 global Lithium producers, is believed to have the potential to supply 20 percent of the world’s Lithium. According to a 2014 report, Zimbabwe produces the fifth most lithium in the world, at 1,000 metric tons.

Here are some battery metals found in Africa

Tharisa’s expansion comes at a time Zimbabwe is witnessing its worst rolling blackout in three years. The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC)  announced that power cuts would start from Monday, May 13 and last up to eight hours during morning and evening peak periods.

Life is now harder in Zimbabwe as prices of everything, including food, fuel and medicine have increased. The current power cut is expected to further dampen the hope of many Zimbabweans as it would affect both household and industries which includes mines.

According to Isaac Kwesu, chief executive of Zimbabwe’s Chamber of Mines, “Mining requires electricity for both operations and safety. It will be very costly to have production stoppages, that is why we will be engaging ZETDC to find ways to minimize any costly disruptions due to the electricity cuts.”

Coming into Zimbabwe at this time will really mean a lot for both Tharisa and Zimbabwe although Tharisa has exposure to Zimbabwe through its stake in the Pouroulis family’s Cyprus-based Karo Resources.

“Tharisa already has some copper and nickel. ( …) in Zimbabwe the component is materially larger in terms of copper and nickel and even a small amount of cobalt,” said Pouroulis said.

Tharisa, which is listed in Johannesburg and London, reported a fall in post-tax profit to $8.2m for the six months to end-March compared with a profit of $28m in the same period a year earlier.