Zimplats: No progress on land challenge

HARARE - Zimbabwe Platinum Mines (Zimplats) – a subsidiary of South African miner Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats) – says there are no developments on its legal challenge of their land compulsorily acquired by government. 

Last March, the State repossessed 27,948 hectares of land held by Zimplats, nearly half of its mining claims, a move which the platinum group metals (PGM) producer objected to.

“We have sent our response to the notice as requested through the Ministry of Mines and there are currently no further developments,” Busi Chindove, Zimplats’ corporate affairs head, told businessdaily Wednesday.

Upon seizing the land, which was with immediate effect, then Mines minister Obert Mpofu said the repossession was meant to maximise benefits from the country’s resources.

“The ministry is following on the creation of real opportunity and investments space by making more land available for new investments, attracting new players into the industry and acting on excess and unutilised ground,” he said, adding that government experts will also review contracts and claims owned by other mines.

“This will be made possible through reviewing of all mining rights deemed to be in excess. To that end, following protracted discussions on the release of excess ground, my ministry is taking a step forward to repossess excess ground from Zimplats,” Mpofu said.

He said the mining giant was granted claims that quadruple the contract stretching beyond a hundred years.

“Zimplats was granted special lease in 1994 covering 25 years, but geological information now indicate that the total ground granted and the mineral endowment therein has a lifespan far exceeding the prescribed period,” Mpofu said.

He said government would stop processing exports for semi–processed platinum products after two years.

Meanwhile, Zimplats – 87 percent owned by the world’s second-largest platinum producer, Implats – is under pressure to build a refinery in Zimbabwe.

Last month, the miner said it will consider offshore loans among a cocktail of measures — together with other local PGM producers — to secure funding for the refinery.

This is on the back of escalated efforts by government with President Robert Mugabe pushing for a ban of raw platinum exports.

Zimbabwe’s platinum is currently processed in neighbouring South Africa (SA).

Other platinum producers in the country are Aquarius and Anglo American.

“The lack of capital in the local market that we currently face in Zimbabwe suggests platinum producers may have to consider a combination of loans and retained cash flows to fund a refinery,” said.

“To establish a sustainable refinery, however, requires a collective and substantial increase in output by all platinum producers. Indications are that producers are not too far from reaching the target of 500 000 ounces,” she said, adding that Zimplats had already taken steps to ramp up output through its Phase II expansion that will see production increase to 270 000 ounces per annum by 2015.

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