The Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe has said there was as yet “no economic sense” in establishing a platinum refinery plant in the country due to the low volumes being produced. This is according to Chamber president Mr. Winston Chitando who was speaking at the fourth edition of the three-day Zimbabwe Mining Indaba.
But that position was likely to set the chamber on a collision course with Government, which is insisting on local value addition of minerals to maximise returns from the resources.
Mr. Chitando said volumes being mined are still very low and that refinery would go bankrupt. “As volumes go up, there is scope for establishing one, we are currently engaged in talks with Government on the setting up of a refinery, but the main thing is the issue of volumes” he said.
Vice-President John Nkomo officially opened this year’s indaba, whose theme is “Making it happen in the mining sector in Africa”.
Zimbabwe has projected 12 940kg of platinum this year and 21 000 tonnes in the event it obtains funding to support operations. Mr. Chitando said the mining industry required between US$5 billion and US$7 billion fresh funding over the next five years to recapitalise operations, with the platinum sector taking US$2.8 billion.
Currently, Zimbabwe’s platinum is processed in South Africa amid concerns that significant value added externally was being lost. Zimbabwe has three platinum companies – Zimplats, a unit of Impala Platinum; Mimosa Platinum, a 50-50 joint venture between South Africa’s Impala Platinum and London-listed Aquarius Platinum; and Unki Platinum, a 100 percent-owned unit of Anglo American Platinum.
Zimbabwe has several mutating platinum projects yet to come into operation, as it bids to fully exploit its huge reserves, the second largest in the world after South Africa.
Platinum Producers’ Association of Zimbabwe chairman Mr. Herbert Mashanyare said besides low volumes, there was also a need to address erratic electricity supplies, among other issues. “As the Platinum Producers’ Association of Zimbabwe, we have engaged the Government. It will cost a minimum of US$2 billion to set up a (platinum) refinery plant,” said Mr. Mashanyare.