PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday gave the country’s clearest hint yet of government’s desire to fully exploit US$300 billion worth of platinum reserves,
indicating he was keen on the establishment of a platinum refining plant in Zimbabwe.
Currently, all platinum matte mined locally is sent to South Africa for refining.
Once refined in South Africa the matte produces various by-products such as platinum, rhodium and palladium.
In his State Of The Nation address yesterday, the president said production of minerals had continued to increase during the last 12 months in response to improved international prices.
“Our platinum mining activities should pull this sector to full recovery, as well as leading the way in terms of mineral processing,” he said.
“It baffles the mind that despite having the world’s second largest deposits of platinum, the country still does not have a platinum processing plant. This is a capacity we are now planning to have.”
President Mugabe said government expected Murowa Diamond Mine to begin production early in 2005.
Two trucks carrying Zimplats platinum matte for processing in South Africa disappeared in that country last year.
Bindura Nickel Corporation also lost unprocessed nickel in South Africa.
Mugabe said there was need for a strong energy policy in the country to meet the requirements of the mining industry.
“We need greater activity both on the coal mining and coal bed methane gas deposits we know to exist in exploitable quantities,” he said.
“We need to augment our energy sources and ensure that the new and pro-active partnerships supersede speculative or ornamental ones. Those foreigners intent on holding to our wealth embedded underground for speculative or other shady reasons must make way for others who mean serious business.”
Mugabe’s comments come at a time when the country is set to amend the Mining and Minerals Act to accommodate an empowerment clause which will require foreign investors to cede a significant shareholding to locals.
In September, Mugabe said government would demand a 50% shareholding in all mining investments.
He said 2005 should be a year of investment, during which the country should consolidate and grow the country’s economy for more jobs and improved living conditions.
“Foreigners only come to an economy which is driven by the confidence of its real owners,” he said.
“As the true owners of the Zimbabwean economy, we have to work singularly hard for its growth.”