Zimplats to import power

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s largest platinum producer Zimplats says it will import electricity from the region to power its base metals refinery if it fails to secure enough supply locally.

The miner — 87 percent owned by South Africa-based Impala Platinum Holdings — plans to invest up to $690 million towards refurbishing its existing base metals refinery and set up a new one that refines both base and precious metals within the next two years.

It chief executive, Alex Mhembere, however, said Zimbabwe does not have adequate power supply required to operationalise a refinery and they would have to rely on imports.

“We know that there is work that is already happening in terms of two projects that will generate more power, Hwange and Kariba, but if those don’t come to fruition in time, our strategy is that we will have import power from the region,” he said at the group’s results briefing Wednesday.

He said because of the need to respond to government pressure, they had taken the initiative to refurbish existing facilities.

Of late, Zimbabwe has escalated pressure on platinum producers to refine or process platinum locally, with President Robert Mugabe threatening to ban exports of the metal in raw form.

In June, Zimplats’ chief operating officer Stanley Segula said they had plans to engage national power utility Zesa Holdings as part of efforts to secure reliable electricity supply ahead of their planned expansion.

The miner targets a total production of 241 000 ounces this year before reaching 255 000 ounces in 2015.

Upon completion of its phase two expansion project in 2019, Zimplats will have a capacity to produce 270 000 ounces of platinum per annum.

“Currently, we are using 82 megawatts (MW) to sustain production but in future we will require a total of 106 MW of uninterrupted electricity supply.

We will be engaging Zesa for deliberations on this matter,” said Segula.

According to Platinum Producers Association of Zimbabwe (PPAZ), miners need dependable power supply in order to fully realise the benefits of a platinum refinery.

However, Zimbabwe is currently grappling an acute power shortage, generating around 1 300MW against a peak demand of approximately 2 200 MW.

Imports are not adequate to cover the deficit.

This year, Zimplats targets a total production of 241 000 ounces per annum before reaching 255 000 ounces in 2015. On completion of the Phase 2 in 2019, the white metal miner will have a capacity to produce 270 000 ounces of platinum per annum.

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