BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
AUSTRALIA-Stock-Exchange-listed platinum giant, Zimplats marks 20 years since making bold moves to invest in the country’s resources sector, taking over swaths of claims previously controlled by BHP before it divested. This week, our business reporter, Freeman Makopa (FM) talked to Busisiwe Chindove (BC), head of corporate affairs at Zimplats, to understand the scale of new investment projects currently underway. Below are excerpts of their discussion:
FM: Tell us about current production levels at Zimplats.
BC: The company operates five underground mines in Mhondoro-Ngezi and three concentrators. Of these, two are in Ngezi and one is in Selous, in addition to a smelter and converter. Both are situated in Selous. Four of the mines and processing plants are operating at full capacity while one mine is under development. The company has nearly 7 000 employees, both full-time and contract. In the year ended June 2020, Zimplats produced 6,8 million tonnes of ore.
FM: Tell us about Zimplats’ contribution to the fiscus
BC: The mining sector contributes 8% of gross domestic product, of which one third comes from PGMs. Zimplats accounts for 50% of the PGM sector’s contribution. The company is also a significant contributor to Zimbabwe’s export revenue. Over the 20 years that the company has been operating, Zimplats has embarked on several growth and mining development projects. These projects have significantly contributed to the country’s economy in terms of employment creation, local supplier development, community social investment, thus also contributing to the GDP.
FM: Zimplats has been undertaking several growth projects. Are there any new investments currently underway?
BC: One such project is the US$264 million, 2,2 million per tonne Mupani Mine project which commenced in 2016. The project is taking place against a background where Zimbabwe is pursuing a strategy of increased local and foreign direct investment. The Mupani Mine project is one of the major mining development projects currently taking place in the country and is designed to replace two of the older mines (Rukodzi and Ngwarati), which will be depleted in 2022 and 2025 respectively. Zimplats recently completed an upgrade to its feed preparation plant at its Selous Metallurgical Complex operations, at a cost of US$6,6 million. The upgraded plant boasts a modern design which optimises chutes to minimise occurrences of blockage and increase milling capacity. Following completion of the plant, Zimplats has recorded an impressive 5% increase in milling rate from 275 tonnes per hour to 288 tonnes per hour within the first four months. The increase will ultimately have an impact on production capacity.
FM: Tell us about Zimplats’ local enterprise development scheme (LEDs)
BC: Zimplats has implemented an aggressive local enterprise development (LEDs) programme . The programme launched in 2013, aims at supporting small-to-medium business enterprises so that they contribute meaningfully to Zimplats’ supply chain and beyond. To date, the programme supports 22 companies that are employing a total of 2 534 people and generating revenue of about US$34 million annually. As the LEDs programme continues to expand, employment creation has also continued to rise, leading to a higher contribution to the fiscus. The support that Zimplats lends to local enterprises hinges on the company’s commitment to contributing to economic revival and support for local enterprise, resulting in economic and social benefits to the participating companies, surrounding communities and ultimately, the country. The local enterprises under the Zimplats’ programme are involved in engineering, medical, haulage, underground support, legal, catering, manufacturing protective clothing, bricks and silica. Some of the LEDs have expanded their markets and are supplying other entities beyond Zimplats, due to the capacity building that they have received through the programme.