The three major platinum miners in Zimbabwe, all South-African based, have submitted plans to the government to set up a refinery but they say they can only do so in three years, that is up to the end of 2016 or early 2017.
According to the Sunday Mail, the companies submitted their proposals to Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa last week ahead of the deadline which was yesterday, 18 January.
“They have tabled end of 2016 as the deadline for the setting-up of the refinery. In their proposals, they have also said there were issues which need urgent attention; things like power and finance: how are they going to be addressed,” the Sunday Mail quoted an unnamed government official as saying.
“So, between now and 2016, they will be sorting out all these issues, but they have reaffirmed their commitment to setting up that refinery. Basically, the companies assured Government that by end of 2016 into early 2017, a platinum refinery will be in Zimbabwe and they need to start small.”
The three mining companies are Impala Platinum (Implats) which owns Zimplats and half of Mimosa, Aquarius Platinum which owns the other half of Mimosa and Anglo Platinum (Amplats) which owns Unki.
The companies were given two years at the beginning of 2013 to set up a refinery which meant that they had to do so by the end of this year.
The companies have been arguing that local production does not warrant a refinery which will cost over US$2 billion. They were also concerned about the current power shortage in the country as the refinery might need up to 400 megawatts of power.
The government insisted that it was not going back on its decision to have the companies set up a refinery threatening to stop the export of raw platinum to South Africa where it is currently refined.
It is not clear yet whether the government will accept the proposal to push forward the setting up of a refinery by two years.
Implats, which is currently Zimbabwe’s biggest producer, is reported to be relying heavily on its Zimbabwe operations as they are more profitable than its South African operations.