President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government gave platinum mines until Jan. 18 to submit proposals to build a precious metal refinery within two years or risk a ban on raw exports of the metal.
The world’s two largest platinum producers, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats), both have operations in Zimbabwe, which has the second-largest known platinum reserves after South Africa.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa was quoted by the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper’s website as saying he had received plans for the construction of a major refinery from Implats’ local unit Zimplats, Anglo American’s local unit Unki and Mimosa mine, which is jointly owned by Zimplats and Aquarius Platinum Ltd.
“They have submitted to us their proposals and we are evaluating them,” he said. “They have made a commitment that they will continue to support Zimbabwe and the setting up of a platinum refinery is one of their aspirations.”
Chidhakwa and spokespersons of the mining companies were not available for comment to Reuters on the report.
The Sunday Mail said the mining firms had also promised to look at the possibility of setting up smaller processing plants and processing ore at an existing small plant. The Mail also said the companies raised questions over funding and secure power supplies.
It quoted Zimplats spokeswoman Busi Chindove as saying recently that the company had invested $30 million in feasibility studies that assessed the cost of a major refinery at about 2 billion dollars.
Zimplats owns a base metal refinery that separates minerals like nickel, chrome and copper from platinum metal groups but says outdated technology makes it too expensive to run, so it sends platinum concentrate to South Africa for processing.
The Zimbabwe chamber of mines, which estimated 2012 output of refined platinum at 350,000 ounces, about 6 percent of world output, has said the country would need to raise platinum output to 500,000 ounces a year to justify a refinery.