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Zimplats sinks US$2bn on Great Dyke

By Golden Sibanda in Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe’s largest platinum producer, Zimplats, says it has invested over US$2 billion towards developing a world class platinum group metals (PGMs) operation on the country’s Great Dyke mineral belt.

FILE - A worker drives a vehicle at Zimplats' Ngwarati Mine in Mhondoro-Ngezi May 30, 2014.
FILE – A worker drives a vehicle at Zimplats’ Ngwarati Mine in Mhondoro-Ngezi May 30, 2014. (Reuters)

The group’s managing director, Mr Stanely Segula told the Chamber of Mines Conference in Victoria Falls yesterday that the company was one of local entities that have registered accelerated growth over the years.

“We are one of those organisations that have gone through an accelerated growth path, but it has required resilience.

“To date we have probably invested well over US$2 billion to get us to the level where we are currently producing 270 000 ounces,” Mr Segula said.

He pointed out that the country’s largest platinum miner now accounted for over 60 percent of what Zimbabwe, world’s third largest PGMs supplier, produces.

Australia Stock Exchange listed Zimplats Holdings, is an 87 percent owned unit of South Africa’s Impala Platinum Holdings and one of the country’s only three producing platinum group mining entities.

Zimbabwe has the world’s third largest PGMs miner in the world, extracting 14,6 tonnes annually, and comes after world number one, South Africa, which produces 100 tonnes a year and Russia, whose annual haul stands at 21 tonnes.

Earlier, group chief executive, Alex Mhembere, said Zimplats, which plans a US$265 million new mine, and other platinum group metal producers, now employ a total industry workforce of 12 000 people.

He said the sector accounted for 30 percent of the country’s exports earnings and was currently the major anchor of foreign currency being generated by the country and sustaining key imports.

While Zimbabwe had less competitive advantages in terms of platinum production, the mineral had unparalleled comparative global advantages, which made it the country’s only world class resource.

“The geology of the PGMs is probably the only mineral we can talk of as world class resource; its shallow, it has favourable ground chemistry, more amenable (to mining) compared to deep level mining in South Africa and because of its presentation, it allows for mechanisation,” he said.

This situation has made Zimplats rank within the upper quartile globally in terms of the production cost profile, a comparative advantage Mr Segula said the company needs not only hold on to, but capitalise on.

The Zimplats managing director said given dynamics in the global PGMs market, Zimbabwe must capitalise on platinum and “make hey while the sun still shines”.

While platinum, largely used in automobile catalytic converter, used to be the biggest revenue generator in the PGMs, it had now been overtaken by another PGMs metal, palladium, on price.

Palladium now fetches US$1 300 per ounce, and competes favourably with gold, and is performing well ahead of platinum (average US$800), which dominated the PGMs basket over the last 16 years.

He said to avoid the fate that befall asbestos, whose global acceptance has plummeted, the country should optimise PGMs exploitation while it’s value still lasts through incentives that drive production. The Herald

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