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BIG PICTURE - Jubilee Platinum eyes big potential of surface projects

There are several strands to this South Africa-focused business, but the aim is to be an integrated platinum producer, which not only has mining and exploration assets, but also processing and smelting operations.
BIG PICTURE - Jubilee Platinum eyes big potential of  surface projects

It's been a long, winding road but Jubilee Platinum (LON:JLP) is looking at a potential big value lift if various ducks line up.

There are several strands to this South Africa-focused business, but the aim is to be an integrated platinum producer, which not only has mining and exploration assets, but also processing and smelting operations.

Progress has notched up a gear recently in its strategy to access surface material, from which it will process platinum group metals (PGMs), while there has also been some traction on the long awaited sale of part of its flagship platinum asset.

Tapping into surface material, or tailings, has become a key focus for miners, not just Jubilee, as depressed prices for the metal, plus labour concerns and power problems in South Africa, mean that for platinum producers, such assets remain the last remaining high-margin option in platinum recovery.

As an example, Anglo American's platinum business recently hoisted up the for sale sign on two of its large mines - at Union and Rustenburg -  as it turns attention to shallower, mechanised mines.

Thus, Jubilee hailed a contract won last year to process material at a tailings dam at ASA Metal’s Dilokong chrome mine, and this year a memorandum of understanding for a deal (three times the size of the ASA one) with the fourth largest ferrochrome producer in the world - Hernic.

The Hernic deal gives Jubilee access to more than four million tons of surface tailings and it is targeting production of 40,000 ounces of platinum a year, expected to generate an operational cash flow of US$14mln a year at a platinum price of U$1,250.

Both projects will target a throughput of around 80,000 tonnes a month, while Jubilee targets them to be in operation during 2016.

Along with Dilokong (where a capital cost has been put at £6.8mln), the processing will add another cash generating strand to group operations.

Investor interest in the potential of both sets of surface assets was shown when Jubilee raised £750,000 last month, which will pay for the designs of the two beneficiation plants.

Meanwhile, talks are underway with institutions on project funding for the construction of plants at the projects, whose margins are described as 'robust' and deemed as low risk.

So, what has been keeping Jubilee on the runway?  One fly in the ointment has been the ongoing attempt, still not signed off, to sell a 20% corner, not in the mine plan, of the flagship Tjate project at Quartzhill to neighbour Anglo American Platinum.

It is expected the deal will bring in £4.2mln, which will be a welcome cash injection, and will aid its beneficiation plant building plans.

However, conditions of the intricate agreement with Anglo meant the disposal required the sign-off by the South African government of a mining right for Tjate.

The latest request for environmental documentation suggests this process for the full right is now in its final stages, Jubilee has suggested, so completion of the sale inches closer.

Aside from surface tailings plans and Quartzhill, investors in Jubilee also consider the group's smelting and power operation at Middelburg, which came on substantively last year.

An upgrade to furnaces through an expansion programme completed in April, showed strong positive knock-on effects in the following two months, and the smelter operation has now become profitable  - one of the group's key milestones.

Another bonus for Jubilee, in a country whose power shortages are well documented, is that it gets its power for the smelter from its Power Alt subsidiary.

In its 2014 financial year, it provided around five megawatts (MW) of power to the national grid, or estimated revenue of £195,000 per month.

Catalysts include the sale of Quartzhill, continued sustainable production at Middelburg and the bringing into operation of the processing of the platinum containing surface material at the Dilokong chrome mine.

Management says the firm is a 'ship on track' and that its market cap of £10.5mln undervalues the group. Only time will tell.

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