Govt reposesses unused platinum claims

HARARE - Zimbabwe plans to repossess unused platinum claims as part of strategies to improve mineral production in the country.

Mines minister, Walter Chidhakwa, told businessdaily that his ministry is currently working on a legal framework to enable government to repossess the claims.

He said the authorities “will not hesitate to withdraw licences from companies that are holding mining claims for speculative purposes”.

Chidhakwa said out of the seven companies holding platinum claims, only three — Zimbabwe Platinum Mines Limited (Zimplats), Anglo’s Unki and Mimosa — were fully utilising them, while the other four were holding on to them.

“We are very unhappy about that because our people are not benefitting from these unutilised claims,” he said, adding that authorities were “going to ensure that those holding claims for speculative purposes do not have a place in Zimbabwe.”

Zimbabwe — holding the second largest known platinum reserves in the world after South Africa — hopes to unlock $1,8 trillion from idle mineral reserves and in the process, create jobs and ease the acute liquidity crisis.

Last year, government formally seized 28 000 hectares of Zimplats’ land, arguing it was not being exploited.

The miner — the country’s biggest mining investor, employing nearly 10 000 people — has objected to the compulsory acquisition.

Zimplats, 87 percent owned by South Africa-based Impala Platinum (Implats), holds a special mining lease of two areas in the country, totalling 48 535 hectares in extent.

Meanwhile, Chidhakwa said the country had shortlisted two firms to build a new platinum refinery and was looking to resolve a dispute with miners over a 15 percent levy imposed on unrefined exports of the metal last month.

This comes after government last year gave platinum miners a two-year ultimatum to construct a refinery in the country.

“Nine companies had submitted refinery plans and two had been shortlisted and we are going to conduct due diligence. There is a committee that has been established to look into the matter and they will soon be going to the two companies’ countries’ of origin to make some assessments,” said Chidhakwa.

Zimbabwe is currently shipping raw platinum to South Africa for refining.

Last month, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines said the local mining industry broadly supports a government proposal to build a new platinum refinery by 2016 as part of efforts to make the mining sector a key driver of economic growth.

Platinum output in the country rose to an all-time record of 430 000 ounces in 2013, up from 340 000 the previous year.

The industry is nearing the 500 000 ounces of annual output needed to make a refinery viable.

Chidhakwa has previously estimated the cost of the refinery and associated 600 megawatt power plant at $3,2 billion.

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