Mwana Africa’s Zimbabwe subsidiary Bindura Nickel Corp (BNC) is on course to restart its nickel smelter in the first half of this year as it acts to increase revenue and cut operating costs, it said.

Once operational, the smelter will initially produce high-quality nickel cathode, copper sulphide and cobalt hydroxide, and process 780,000 tpy of ore.
Concentrate throughput will be about 160,000 tpy. Trojan mine concentrate production is projected to be about 106,677 tonnes, creating demand for concentrate from other sources.

The smelter, north of the capital Harare, requires a total funding commitment of $26.5 million to restore it to efficient operation; it has been mothballed since 2008. BNC has already issued a $20 million bond, while the balance of $6.5 million will be raised from internal sources.

However, Bindura recently extended the bond issue to February 27 after prospective bondholders requested more time to settle internal processes and procedures. The bond was issued on November 24 last year, and has a five-year tenure with a 10% semi-annual coupon rate.

“We have registered great interest for the bond and we are confident it will be well subscribed within the extended window,” Bindura md Batirai Manhando told Metal Bulletin.

“We had to extend the bond issue beyond the January 23 deadline as investment committees and boards did not have an opportunity to sit and consider the investment due to the holidays. We are also confident that the bond will be well subscribed as it has a prescribed asset status,” he added.

Work on the smelter has already started, with the recruitment of key staff and the contracting of a Canadian firm, the Hatch Furnace Group, to start restoring the furnace, Manhando said.

Concentrate from BNC’s nearby Trojan mine will only fill half the smelter’s capacity, and so Bindura is considering opening its Hunter’s Road mine, in central Zimbabwe, to generate more ore. “Hunter’s is the future of the mine,” Manhando said.

Bindura is also looking globally for partners that could feed nickel ore into the smelter, he added.

“We have been talking to Zambia’s Munali nickel [mine] to feed concentrate into the smelter. However, we are not stopping there, we are looking all over; traditionally, we have handled material from as far away as India and China,” he said.

The firm is bullish about nickel prices because of Indonesia’s ban on nickel ore exports, he added.

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Ceaser Mhukahuru