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Villagers make way for Karo project

FREEMAN MAKOPA
THE government has identified land to resettle communities living around swathes of platinum fields in Mhondoro district which will soon be exploited by Karo Resources.

In an interview with businessdigest this week, Mines and Mining Development deputy minister, Polite Kambamura could not disclose how many villagers would be resettled.

But he said along with progress in relocation plans, Karo had begun shipping equipment to the operation to kick-start the development of the platinum operation.

Kambamura said the Mines and Mining Development ministry was working with Karo and the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development ministry, which has identified the resettlement area.

He could not disclose when mine development will start but in a recent interview, the minister said Karo, which has links to mining tycoon Loucas Pouroulis, had reported “very encouraging” results following its exploration.

Karo inked the US$4,2 billion transaction with the government in 2018, giving it exclusive access to some of the world’s richest platinum group metal (PGM) resources.

Kambamura said: “(Karo is) shipping in lead equipment and in consultation with the Lands ministry has identified an area for relocation of affected people”.

“The mine development is starting soon,” the deputy minister added.

Relocation of communities by resource firms has recently turned into one of the most controversial issues since a flood of investors moved to exploit Zimbabwe’s minerals in the past five years.

Most of the outcry has revolved around Chinese mining projects, where investors have been accused of digging up graves and destroying delicate environments to make way of their mines.

However, in Karo’s case, there has surprisingly not been an outcry over mine development. The project, which will end with the establishment of an operation that produces 1,4 million ounces of PGMs per year, is seen as an important factor in Zimbabwe’s ambition to build a US$12 billion mining economy by next year.

Minerals contributed about US$5 billion to Zimbabwe’s export revenues last year and the figure is projected to rise as mines return to shafts following the end of Covid-19 lockdowns.

Government has said it was expecting to strike a fair deal with Karo.

Following the chaos that characterised Zimbabwe’s diamond sector, the country has been placing its priorities on sealing deals that give its citizens a fair share of mineral sales.

The government has also been engaged in negotiations with Invictus Energy, the oil and gas explorer, to structure a deal that will ensure there are no leakages such as those experienced in Chiadzwa diamond fields.

In an interview hosted by the Zimbabwe Independent on Alpha Media Holdings (AMH)’s Heart & Soul Television, Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando said last year Karo would start mining in 2023.

Previously, operations were expected to start in 2020.

“Mimosa is in the process of expanding and, over and above that, we will then have in 2023 Karo Resources having their first output coming into the equation, so we are in the process of achieving (the US$12 billion targets).”

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