IImpala Refining Services (IRS) was created in July 1998 as a dedicated vehicle to house the toll refining and metal concentrate purchases built up by Implats. IRS is situated in Springs some 35 kilometres east of Johannesburg. IRS provides smelting and refining services through offtake agreements with group companies (except Impala) and third parties’ recycling and toll treatment. During FY2013, IRS reported attributable platinum production of 872 300 ounces (1.85 million ounces of PGMs).
The IRS model
The IRS model enables Implats to reduce its exposure to mining risk by using Impala’s excess smelting and refining capacity. At the same time this business also enables junior operators to exploit smaller PGM deposits. Typical IRS products include:
- flotation concentrates from Marula, Mimosa, Two Rivers and other small mining contracts;
- furnace matte from Zimplats;
- spent autocatalysts for recycling; and
- selected base metal residues and other secondary materials.
IRS enters into either metal purchase agreements or toll refining agreements, or a combination of the two. In metal purchase agreements a percentage of the contained value (allowing for Impala’s cost and a profit margin) is paid after an agreed processing period. In toll refining agreements, IRS charges the client a smelting, refining and handling fee and returns to the client, the metal after an agreed processing period. Impala, in turn, charges IRS a market-related fee for its expertise and the use of its processing facilities.
With the exception of mine-to-market operations, IRS has little or no control over volumes received from either third party or toll treatment contracts.