via Platinum export ban vow serious: Minister 21/11/2013 by AFP NewZimbabwe
ZIMBABWE, the world’s number three platinum producer, is determined to ban exports of raw platinum and to force firms to refine locally, the new mines minister told AFP Thursday.
“We are determined to ensure that a refinery is put up in Zimbabwe,” minister Walter Chidakwa said, speaking during a visit to Johannesburg.
“Once you put up a refinery, surely we must put a law that says we do not want our platinum to be exported as raw,” he added.
“We want our minerals value-added,” he said.
Cash-strapped Zimbabwe is increasingly looking to the mining sector to help solve its liquidity shortage, which economists say has worsened since the July elections won by veteran leader Robert Mugabe.
The greyish mineral used in the auto industry and in jewellery production, is shipped out of the country in raw blocks for refining in neighbouring South Africa, the world’s largest platinum maker.
President Mugabe last week warned that he would halt platinum exports if mining companies refused to build a refinery.
Platinum miners had been issued an ultimatum by the former power sharing government to set up a refinery, but that deadline has already passed.
Chidakwa said platinum producers operated by South African-based Anglo-American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Aquarius Platinum, argued that they are yet to reach the minimum production threshold of 500,000 ounces that justify the creation of a smelter.
The affiliates of the three companies produced around 347,000 ounces last year and are expected to produce around 400,000 ounces in 2013.
Chidakwa shot down that argument, as “academic.”
“It is something else that drives them not to go that route, but we are determined.”
“As government we will be announcing measures on what we will do to ensure that a refinery is set up.”
Accounting for six percent of global output, Zimbabwe is the third producer of platinum after South Africa and Russia, and has the second known reserves after South Africa, according to the country’s chamber of mines.
With labour unrest curbing South African production, many see an opportunity for Zimbabwe to become a bigger player.
But electricity cuts and political instability remain a problem.
Zimbabwe will in the “next five to 10 years enjoy reasonable stability” and start to claim a bigger role in the global platinum market, said Chidakwa, a former investment chief appointed mines minister after the July 31 disputed general elections.