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Platinum miners engage RBZ

Conrad Dube

PLATINUM miners operating in Zimbabwe are in talks with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for further clarification on the bank’s recently announced platinum group metals (PGMs) beneficiation me

asures.


The measures, contained in RBZ governor Gideon Gono’s third quarter monetary policy statement delivered last Thursday, target platinum miners’ offshore accounts and marketing of the minerals.


Led by world number two producer Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd (Implats), whose investments in Zimbabwe are held through Zimbabwe Platinum Mines Ltd (Zimplats), the PGM companies say they are holding consultative meetings with local authorities with a view to coming up with mutually beneficial solutions.


Zimplats chief executive Mike Houston told the Australian Stock Exchange that his firm was engaged in talks with Harare officials as part of a universal team to demand, in detail, an explanation on the implications of the latest measures.


He said the platinum industry had agreed to form a committee comprising key players – including the government of Zimbabwe – to consider agreements entered when foreign investors came into Zimbabwe.


“This committee will review current agreements/regulations with the objective of finalising a new ‘enhanced’ platinum sector regime document by February 1 2005,” said Houston.


He added that the issues contained in the governor’s statement are of “material” significance and that shareholders needed to be kept informed of progress on the issue.


Other than Implats, global leader Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) also mines on Zimbabwe’s Great Dyke.


It owns the US$90 million Unki platinum mine on the southern end of the mineral-rich Dyke, where Mimosa also operates.


Under Gono’s intended plan, the RBZ will expropriate all marketing rights of PGMs in the country, while producers will be required to open special local foreign currency accounts in which all proceeds will be deposited.


Said the governor: “The Reserve Bank has, with the approval of government, assumed responsibility, as is the case with gold trading, for the handling of trading in the platinum group metals, under a viable structure to be set up in close consultation with players in the platinum industry, to take into account peculiarities in platinum production and undertaking.”


The selling plan, also involving the state-run Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, is also applicable to gold and lately asbestos.


More importantly, the mining firms will be asked to transfer or repatriate funds held in existing offshore accounts to the new created facility.


Gono argues that the assumption and centralisation of marketing functions will bring accountability because the platinum industry has for long remained a “black box” shrouded by an intricate web of processing and marketing agreements that are incomprehensible to many in both the public and official domains.


“Increasingly, however, the international community, including the World Bank, is calling for greater transparency and accountability in the exploitation and usage of revenues from the extractive industries, be they oil industries, mining operations and plantations, among others,” he said.


However, peevish investors, who landed in Zimbabwe at a time of scarce foreign direct investment, feel the latest measures disfigure several investment protocols entered into at the time of investment.


Platinum forms one of the country’s top strategic sectors, with its foreign exchange-earning abilities.

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