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Ruukki puts Zimbabwe chrome project on ice

Keywords: Tags  Ruukki, Alistair Ruiters, chrome, Zimbabwe, felix njini

WINDHOEK, Namibia — Ruukki Group says prevailing market conditions have forced it to put plans to develop its Waylox chrome deposits in Zimbabwe on hold.

The project encompasses two chrome claims—Trixie and Prince of Wales—along Zimbabwe’s Great Dyke, a 330-mile-long mineral strike with substantial chrome and platinum deposits.

"We have plans to develop the claims into a mine. The timing of our decision is entirely market dependent, and given current market conditions we will obviously wait a bit," Alistair Ruiters, executive chairman of Ruukki South Africa, told AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

An improvement in market conditions would justify investment in transforming the two high-grade chrome concessions into commercial production, Ruiters said. "We are hopeful that market conditions will improve (to) where the selling price of chrome would allow us to justify our investment."

Moves to recruit local staff and set up administration structures, which were already underway, have been put on hold, Ruiters said.

He did not disclose whether the company had any plans to eventually invest in chrome smelting facilities at the Zimbabwean project. Exports of chrome ore are banned under Zimbabwean law and, coupled with limited chrome smelting capacity, most chrome producers in Zimbabwe have either scaled back mining operations or shut down completely.

"It is the company’s policy to beneficiate as much of the product locally (as possible), so when we eventually decide on these matters this policy will be our primary consideration," Ruiters said.

He said Ruukki has submitted proposals for meeting Zimbabwe’s indigent law, which requires at least 51 percent local ownership.

As market conditions improve, Ruukki also will seek to increase its presence along the Great Dyke by conducting further exploration, the company said.

"We believe that Zimbabwe offers significant potential, given the high-grade ore present in the Great Dyke area. For that reason, it is always an option that Ruukki will (undertake) further exploration," Ruiters said.

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

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