Zimbabwe’s platinum industry calls for US$2,8 bln in new investment

ZIMBABWE could double annual platinum production to more than 900 000 ounces in the next decade and become the nation’s top export earner but current producers need US$2,8 billion in new investment to do so, the industry association said on Friday.

The southern African nation holds the second largest known reserves of platinum after South Africa but mines have struggled with low prices, a black empowerment law forcing mines to sell more than 50% of the business to locals, and power shortages.

Zimbabwe Platinum Producers Association Chairman Winston Chitando told the annual meeting of the Chamber of Mines in the resort town of Victoria Falls that the industry needed new investments to raise annual production by existing producers from current levels of 458 000 ounces a year.

“With vast platinum reserves, the sector has potential to increase production by the current producers from about 13 tonnes (458 562 ounces) to 20 tonnes (705 479 ounces) by 2020 and to 26 tonnes (917 123 ounces) by 2025,” Chitando said.

Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Aquarius Platinum are the three companies currently operating platinum mines in Zimbabwe.

He did not comment on the separate Russian-backed project which was announced by the two governments 20 months ago for the joint development of the Darwendale mine which was projected to be producing up to 800 000 ounces a year by 2024.

Work on this project was still at the exploration stage, Zimbabwe’s mining minister told Reuters in March.

Chitando said on Friday revenue from platinum, which is the third largest export earner after tobacco and gold, could become the biggest at US$1,2 billion in the next four years if more money was invested.

“The industry requires around US$2,8 billion over the next five years to ramp up and sustain operations. Bottlenecks that undermine capital inflows include clarity on indigenisation,” Chitando said.

Under the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which was passed in 2008, foreign-owned businesses are required to sell at least 51 percent of their local operations to Zimbabwean investors.

But on April 12 President Robert Mugabe said the empowerment policy was confusing potential investors and made it hard to compete for foreign investment.-Reuters

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