Zimbabwe has shortlisted two firms to build a new platinum refinery and is looking to resolve a dispute with miners over a 15 percent levy imposed on unrefined exports of the metal last month, the mines minister said on Tuesday.
The southern African country has the world's largest platinum reserves after South Africa and President Robert Mugabe last year gave miners two years to establish a refinery.
Walter Chidhakwa, the mines minister, told reporters that nine companies had submitted refinery plans and two had been shortlisted. The government would conduct due diligence soon.
Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum Holdings, the world's two largest platinum producers, have mines in Zimbabwe, shipping platinum matte to South Africa for refining.
The Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines last month said the local mining industry broadly supports a government proposal to build a new platinum refinery by 2016 as part of efforts to make the mining sector a key driver of economic growth.
Platinum output in Zimbabwe rose to an all-time record of 430,000 ounces in 2013, up from 340,000 the previous year. The industry is nearing the 500,000 ounces of annual output needed to make a refinery viable.
Chidhakwa has previously estimated the cost of the refinery and associated 600-megawatt power plant at 3.2 billion US dollars.
On Tuesday Chidhakwa said the government was in discussions with platinum miners who say a 15 percent tax imposed last month on unrefined platinum had increased the effective rate on royalties to 25 percent and made mining expensive.
"We will continue to discuss with the minister of finance and the industry to ensure that our platinum mines do not sink," he said.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe plans to auction its Marange diamonds in Dubai next month and in Shangai between April and May, according to Chidhakwa.
Six mines are currently selling Marange diamonds in Antwerp, the second such sale since the European Union last year lifted sanctions on the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, which owns shares in the six companies.