Platinum companies not likely to meet deadline for refinery

Zimbabwe’s platinum mining companies are not likely to meet the end-of-year deadline to set up a refinery in the country because consultations and the process itself require a longer time than that.

Two major South African companies, Anglo Platinum and Impala Platinum, which is also operating jointly with Bermuda registered Aquarius, are the major platinum miners in Zimbabwe.

The platinum is currently being refined in South Africa which the Zimbabwean government has said is unacceptable.

Zimbabwe gave the platinum companies two years to set up a refinery in the country from January 2013. The two years expires at the end of this year.

Second vice president of the Chamber of Mines Toindepi Muganyi said yesterday platinum mining companies were likely to miss the 2015 deadline to build a refinery.

“In terms of the penalty on unprocessed platinum by January 2015, the platinum industry will be found flat footed because the timing will be difficult to adhere to because the construction of various processes to realise value addition require a longer time than that,” he said.

The government gave the mining companies up to this Saturday, 18 January, to come up with proposals to set up the refinery.

The news has seen Impala Platinum’s share price drop by 10 percent but the company says it is not worried.

According to Business Day, Implats corporate relations manager Alice Lourens said no deadline on beneficiation had been imposed by the Zimbabwe government.

“I don’t know where this story is coming from. We have received a nicely worded invitation to participate in discussions around beneficiation.”

The paper said an industry source disagreed saying that political pressure is being applied but the situation is fluid with the Zimbabwean government as much over a barrel as Implats may be.

Implats is the largest platinum producer in Zimbabwe through its 87 percent subsidiary Zimplats and its 50 percent stake in Mimosa Platinum (the other 50percent is held by Aquarius).

Implats’ Zimbabwe operations have repeatedly shown the group’s highest profit margins.

“The Zimbabwean platinum mines are low-cost, shallow, mechanised operations staffed by small but skilled workforces. This compares with Implats’ deep, high-cost mines around Rustenburg in South Africa, staffed by huge numbers of unskilled and increasingly militant workers,” Business Day said.

“Zimplats represents our blue sky potential,” it quoted Lourens as saying.

The industry source said: “I think Amplats could walk away from Zimbabwe if it had to, but I do not think that Implats could.”



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