JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Digging platinum from asteroids? Toronto- and New York-listed junior Platinum Group Metals (PTM) said on Tuesday its discovery of a new deposit in South Africa is “more down to earth" than the recent suggestions of mining on asteroids for platinum.
The company reported step-out drilling at its Waterberg deposit had confirmed “thick, consistent” mineralisation for a strike length of over one kilometre.
“The first discovery at Waterberg was made at 660 m deep. From there, the layers have been traced up dip to a depth of 200 m,” the company said.
It aims to do more drilling in the hopes of cutting even shallower intercepts, potentially making the deposit amenable to mining through decline shafts, which are cheaper to build and operate than vertical ones.
The three-metre-plus thickness in the mineralised layers also shows promise for mechanised mining, which is cheaper and safer than the narrow-stope mining that takes place in most South African platinum mines.
PTM believed the grade, reef thickness and metal ratios to be unlike other regions of South Africa’s Bushveld Complex, which hosts around four-fifths of known global platinum reserves, representing what could be a new “environment” for platinum in the country.
For example, the drill holes of what PTM called the “T zone” so far had shown metal splits of around 30% platinum, 50% palladium and 20% gold.
Lower down, in what it dubbed the “F reef”, there were more similarities to the Bushveld Complex’s northern limb Platreef mineralisation, with 40% platinum, 55% palladium and 5% gold.
“The opportunity for nearer-to-surface platinum with increased safety from mechanised mining in a new environment is very exciting” PTM said.
“Given the dropping production of some of the current players and the world’s essential need for platinum in catalytic converters and industry, the north limb developments are of great interest.”
South Africa’s platinum producers have been struggling to arrest production declines, laying most of the blame on government’s drive to temporarily shut mines where fatal or serious injuries occur.
PTM CEO Michael Jones first announced the new discovery at a conference in Toronto in March 2011.
“Certainly these developments are ‘more down to earth’ than the recent suggestions of mining on asteroids for platinum,” PTM said in Tuesday’s announcement, making reference to the plans of a company investors including Google CEO Larry Page and filmmaker James Cameron have backed.
PTM, which owns 49% of the Waterberg property, is also building the Waterberg Bushveld joint venture, or WBJV, Project 1 platinum mine located near Rustenburg, where production is set to start in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Last week, metals consultancy Thompson Reuters GFMS said the platinum supply surplus would likely continue this year.