ANGLO American Corporation Zimbabwe (Amzim) has taken its discussions for a predetermined 20% empowerment quota in minority-held Unki platinum mine to the Zimbabwean Chamber of Mines platform, m
anaging director James Maposa told businessdigest yesterday.
South Africa’s Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s largest platinum miner, co-owns US$90 million Unki, which mines on the 500-kilometre Great Dyke.
“Discussions with government on the type of empowerment issues are being handled through the Chamber of Mines (in Zimbabwe),” Maposa said in Harare.
He would not commit himself to assertions that they were discussing an already-drawn up shortlist of potential suitors, saying only that “it was important” for them to focus on a suitable localisation structure.
Under Amzim’s offer, and in line with an agreement with government, new investors will take up to 15% of the 20% on offer, with the rest being held for deserving employees.
The empowerment issue has been outstanding for a year.
David Murangari, chief executive of the Zimbabwean mining lobby forum, was not forthcoming on the much-anticipated Unki empowerment issue.
Instead, he said Amzim’s issue was being discussed in a broader context and that mining conglomerates owned by foreigners were still pondering action in the wake of calls by President Robert Mugabe that such mines have a 50% local ownership.
The proposed laws, sending jitters across the all-important mining sector especially coming after similar nationalisation of arable land, abrogate mining firms’ choices and long-agreed empowerment charters.
Until recently, mining firms have been putting a brave face on Mugabe’s takeover threats. But serious worries persist.
With feasibility studies having been concluded in 2001 and trial mining at Unki underway, Maposa said the money they were utilising – on developing the current phase of the mine – was part of the funding already approved by shareholders and government.
Amzim anticipates full production of 60 000 ounces of platinum group metals (PGMs) annually by 2007. PGMs include rhodium and palladium, and are a good seller in the international markets owing to varied technology uses.
A senior project manager with the resources group, Stuart Marchant, however, noted that a review of the project had shown that output could rise by over 20% to 106 000 tonnes of ore.
The Chamber of Mines initiative, also embracing Amzim competitors Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats)’s Zimbabwe Platinum Mines (Zimplats) subsidiary, Mimosa, and various mining concerns, shows the insecurity obtaining in the country is particularly hurtful to business expansion.
Coupled with the property rights threats, recent measures by government to take over marketing rights of the key export-earning white metals and abolition of offshore accounts add to the uncertainties.
Amzim, nonetheless, looks forward to concluding the empowerment issue, on the back of similar actions by Zimplats which wrapped up a low-key deal with Nkululeko-Rusununguko empowerment consortium. The Australian Stock Exchange-listed Zimplats offered just 15%.
Judging by its South African empowerment subscription experience and criterion, the Oppenheimer family-owned Anglo empire is likely to choose technically-strong partners or those that demonstrate ability to apply empowerment schooling for their own benefit, and development of independent projects.
Amzim, along with Implats, gold digger Metallon, diamond miners Rio Tinto and nickel miner Mwana Africa Holdings, are some of the multinational mining companies to invest in Zimbabwe, at a time meaningful investment has dwindled to near single-digit percentage figures.