RioZim commissions Biological Oxidation (BIOX) plant for gold mining efficiency

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  • RioZim commissions a BIOX plant which holds the future of the Cam and Motor gold mine
  • The plant is expected to increase gold mining efficiency by processing Gold-Sulphur ores
  • Plant to increase processing capacity by 50 per cent.

Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed and diversified mining group, RioZim, commissioned a US$17 million Biological Oxidation (BIOX) plant at the Cam and Motor gold mining operation in Kadoma on April 14, 2022.

This is in line with the firm’s objectives of intensifying exploration activities at its gold mining assets. This also dovetails with the Government’s economic revival strategy anticipated to be anchored by the mining sector.

RioZim is also focused on optimizing gold production through maximum operating efficiency. The collective is expected to increase processing capacity by 50 per cent.

Biological Oxidation is the latest technology that ensures better processing of gold ores with high Sulphur content. Ores at Cam and Motor gold mine have high Sulphur concentration increasing cyanide consumption during the leaching process.

The technology uses bacteria to reduce Sulphur content before cyanidation. The mine is reported to have received 20 litres of bacteria from neighbouring South Africa and has developed enough to feed the three tanks. This innovative solution for the treatment of ores significantly reduces cyanide consumption, therefore reducing operating costs.

The BIOX plant is one of the key projects expected to get the firm’s turnaround strategy back on track. According to RioZim’s abridged press circular, recent geological and metallurgic test work revealed that with the current technology and the grades of ore, Cam and Motor can produce significant amounts of gold at a competitive cost of production.

The mining house will prioritize its exploration drive to upgrade and increase confidence levels on all resources across all mines in light of decreasing grades at Renco, One Step, and Dalny mines. The plant will go a long way in ensuring the company beneficiates gold by processing pure oxide ores to make high recoveries and good grades.

President of Zimbabwe H.E Emmerson Mnangagwa at RioZim’s Biological Oxidation Plant. This was during the commissioning of the plant (Photo/ InfoMinZW)

Cause of delays

There were delays in completing the BIOX plant in the past three years due to funding constraints and the Covid-19 pandemic. According to an article published by Business Weekly, capital raising initiatives included approaching RioZim’s bankers and other financial institutions.

In 2019, RioZim embarked on various capital raising initiatives to fund the establishment of the BIOX plant, which holds the future of Cam and Motor Mine.

The same media house published a related article on May 28, 2021, citing RioZim’s 2020 annual report. RioZim said progress had been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as suppliers were affected by the lockdowns and travel restrictions in the first half of 2020.

Furthermore, in an article published on April 8, 2021, 263Chat said external funding for the project remained elusive throughout the year as lenders took a conservative approach in light of the uncertainties brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. This left RioZim primarily dependent on internally generated funding.

Why the BIOX plant.

In 2020 RioZim’s gold production declined by 27 per cent from 1.66 tons achieved in 2019 to 1.21 tons. On October 27, 2020, the Herald reported that the company’s gold mining operations declined in the third quarter to September 30, 2020. Two of the group’s key mines Cam and Dalny Mines recorded a slowdown in output.

The report indicated that the Cam and Motor Mine continued processing low-grade ores from its One Step Mine throughout the quarter.

“Throughout the current year, the group’s flagship operation Cam and Motor mine carried out mining activities from the nearby One Step Mine hauling low-grade ore to the Cam and Motor plant for processing. This resulted in a drastic fall in gold production compared to the prior year when the mine processed high-grade ore from its Cam pits,” the company said.

The diversified group suspended operations on several dates in 2018. According to an article published by The Herald on June 16, 2020, RioZim said it had been forced to stop gold mining operations by its inability to meet operating costs. The company said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) imposed a retention threshold and the pegged exchange rate meant it was only receiving 80 per cent of its earnings from the sale of gold.

“Gold miners are required to surrender 30 per cent of their foreign currency earnings to the RBZ, which then liquidates them at a now fixed exchange rate of ZW $25 for every US dollar,” said the miner in a cautionary statement to shareholders,

RioZim added that this regulation effectively meant that the company was getting less for its gold sales compared to the international market price. This level of earnings, it said was not enough to cover operating expenses, including imported power and restless human resource-demanding that wages be paid in foreign currency.

In February 2019, RioZim suspended operations saying the lack of foreign currency affected the viability of the miner’s operations. The firm experienced striking and continual delays in payment of its foreign currency quota for deliveries made to gold buyer Fidelity Printers and Refiners.

According to the Herald, the central bank tried to make amends and created a 70-30 payment adjustment. This in terms of which 70 per cent of the gold scale earnings would be paid into the producer’s Nostro account and the balance of 30 per cent would be paid at the ruling exchange rate into the producer’s Zimbabwe dollar account. However, the miner indicated this was still not good enough in a cautionary statement.

“The impact of this situation on the company’s operations has been that the company is no longer able to meet its operational expenditure requirements considering that the company is required to pay for electricity and fuel in USD along with almost all of its consumables and spares also being denominated in USD,” reads part of the statement.

The article also pointed out that as far as 2018, the miner also blamed the central bank for their failure to access foreign currency to bring in vital inputs. As a result, they suspended operations at Cam and Motor Mine, Dalny, and Renco Mine. This was after they ran out of money to import inputs like mining explosives, cyanide for leaching, activated carbon, and makeshift spares among other items.

The company has a diversified portfolio of mining assets covering gold, diamonds, coal, base metals, and a base metals refinery. In addition to its operational assets, the company has several high potential exploration assets. Currently, the firm operates the Renco Gold mine, the Cam and Motor gold mine, the Maranatha ferrochrome refinery, and the Empress Nickel Refinery. The group also owns half of Sengwa Colliery Pvt Ltd, holds a 22% interest in Murowa Diamonds Pvt Ltd, and is moving into the chrome mining and smelting industry. The BIOX plant at Cam and Motor mine is one of the key projects that the firm is expecting to get the firm’s turnaround strategy back on track.

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Albert is a Chemical Technologist and Author. He is passionate about mining, stock market investing, Fintech and Edutech.

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