Nssa pursues platinum, lithium investments

HARARE - Deep-pocketed pensions administrator, National Social Security Authority (Nssa), is pursuing investment opportunities in the mining sector.

The statutory body — sitting on a $1,3 billion asset base — is targeting high-value minerals such as lithium and platinum, among others.

Zimbabwe has vast reserves of the minerals, with the country hosting the second largest known platinum deposits in the world after South Africa (SA). Platinum producers in Zimbabwe are Anglo American’s Unki and Zimplats, majority owned by SA-based Implats.

“The authority is seeking investment opportunities in gold, platinum, lithium and coal,” Nssa general manager/CEO Liz Chitiga said at the just-ended Zimbabwe Mining Investment Conference.

She said Nssa was looking at “the entire mining value chain...mineral extraction, processing, mineral export financing, beneficiation and development of related downstream industries  value-addition”.

Under the targeted investment options, Chitiga said the authority was considering “equity and or quasi-equity transactions for development of infrastructure that supports mining activities”.

Nssa, which holds stakes in 43 listed companies, is already invested in the resources sector. The social security provider — with current mining investments to the tune of $80 million — is a shareholder in Bindura Nickel Corporation and tri-listed coal miner Hwange Colliery Company Limited.

Apart from investments in mining firms, Chitiga said Nssa has been supporting the mining sector through debt instruments directly and indirectly via the banks.

She said resources were of interest to Nssa because of the establishment of new industries —upstream and downstream — in the sector.

“(Also, the) long-term gestation of mining projects is in sync with pension fund liabilities for the authority,” Chitiga justified.

Nssa’s interest in resources comes as Zimbabwean authorities claim the country — a competitive and strategic mining destination on the continent — has potential and capacity to be a leading global lithium producer.

There is rising demand for lithium as a battery metal needed for the shift to electric vehicles and renewable power.

Speaking at a mining conference in Cape Town, South Africa recently, Mines minister Winston Chitando said Zimbabwe’s lithium had so far attracted more interest than any of its minerals.

He said his ministry had just sealed a lithium mining deal with a listed company — whose details he refused to disclose until a stock market announcement — that was expected to generate revenue of $1,4 billion over eight years.

“Most of the enquiries have been about lithium,” Chitando said. “Zimbabwe will become a very significant producer of lithium,” he added.

Chitando said other minerals attracting interest were gold and coal, that miners are increasingly pursuing as a cheap source of power, which interestingly coincides with Nssa’s interest in the resources.

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