The government could let foreign-owned platinum mining firms own majority shares in their local operations if they partner it to build a refinery in the country, mines minister Walter Chidhakwa has said.
Chidhakwa said a platinum refinery was a national aspiration and that if platinum producers set it up, the government could offer concessions and allow them to own more shares in their local operations.
Chamber of Mines officials said the refinery would cost at least $2 billion, and would increase earnings by 10 percent.
“The government is simply saying our guiding principle is 51:49 but if the investment does something to this country that can convince us to move away from the 51:49 percent …. we can do so,” Chidhakwa said on Thursday after touring Zimplats.
Chidhakwa said the deal which allowed Essar to own 54 percent of Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel) was an example of the government’s flexibility on indigenisation.
“In so far as establishing a platinum refinery in Zimbabwe is concerned, there is flexibility,” Chidhakwa said.
South African miners, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum have all agreed to sell 51 percent of shares in their local operations to black investors under the Zimbabwe government’s empowerment laws.
Zimbabwe has the world’s second largest platinum reserves but the sends the raw minerals to neighbouring South Africa for processing.
It produced 350 000 ounces of platinum in 2012, but mining officials said the three platinum producing mines are nearing the 500 000oz annual output that would justify the setting up of a refinery.
Zimplats expects to increase its output to 270000 ounces annually from the current 180000oz following the successful implementation of its phase two expansion project in 2015.
Mimosa mine, jointly owned by Implats and Aquarius Platinum produced 106,000oz in 2012, and has plans to double the output.
Anglo Platinum’s Unki mine in Shurugwi’s production currently stands at 62 100oz per annum.
Chidhakwa said the platinum refinery would be a national project that should be jointly build and owned by mining companies as well as the government.
“We have gone past the conceptual question of whether or not we are going to build the refinery. The question now is how are we going to do it and by when should we have done it,” said Chidhakwa.
“Our thinking is that this is a national facility not every company in the country can develop or needs to develop refinery capacity but we need to have a national project that ensures that we have the capacity to refine all the platinum that comes from all our companies existing and those to come.”