The South African platinum miners – Anglo Platinum, Impala Platinum and Aquarius Platinum – all have operations in the country and have been asked to undertake platinum beneficiation. The government has threatened to ban raw platinum exports if no beneficiation of the metal is not undertaken. Gold miners already sell their bullion through a unit controlled by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Zimplats said on Tuesday that it had made a “strategic decision” to refurbish its base metals refinery in the country to “further beneficiate (platinum) from the current final product of converted matte”. The refurbished refinery will also produce copper cathode and nickel sulphate which will be sold directly to clients and processed further at other refineries in Zimbabwe respectively.

The PGM cake will still need to be processed further in the precious metal refinery (PMR) and this will continue to be done in South Africa,” Zimplats said in its annual report for the year to end June 30.
Only last week, the government lifted a 15% levy on exports of platinum that is not beneficiated after producers had reportedly halted exports in protest over the levy. Zimbabwe Mines and Mining Development Minister, Walter Chidakwa said in August that President Robert Mugabe’s cabinet had “allowed that they (platinum miners) be given two years” to implement their plans for the setting up of platinum refinery facilities.
Implats has been at the forefront of investing into increased platinum beneficiation in Zimbabwe. However, said a Zimbabwean mining executive on Monday: “There has been no clarity on the issue and this announcement by Zimplats that the refurbished refinery at Selous will not fully refine the precious metal may put the company on a collision with the government in the near future.”
Johan Theron, spokesperson for Implats, did not respond to emailed questions for more clarity on the issue. He recently said in an emailed statement that the JSE listed miner was committed to investing in mineral beneficiation in the country.
“We are also on record that we support Government initiatives to transform the industry (indigenisation and local beneficiation), but our ability to do so is impacted by the financial and regulatory constraints under which we operate (metal prices, our ability to raise the required finance, secure power and attain the necessary regulatory and fiscal certainty),” said Theron.
Alex Mhembere, the chief executive officer of Zimplats confirmed that $10.2 million has to date been committed to the refurbishment of the refinery, which is expected to be commissioned in July next year. He added that the overall refurbishment process will cost the company $131 million to complete.
Zimplats on Monday attributed its revenue and pre-tax profit decline to “a 20% reduction in four elements (platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold) (4E) sales volumes from 477 905 ounces to 381 849 ounces and a 12% fall in gross revenue per platinum ounce from US$2 457 to US$2 167 arising from declining metal prices”.
It is however, forging ahead with its Ngezi Phase 2 expansion project to boost production. Implats has spent as much as $441 million in implementing the expansion project. By the end of June this year, an additional $11 million had been provisioned towards the project.
The year under review saw revenues tip 29% to $408 million, pre-tax profits dip 56% to $56 million and gross profit margins decrease from 42% in the year earlier period to 23%. Operating cash cost per platinum ounce for the year increased by 18% from $1 319 in the prior year to $1 551, mainly due to “the impact of the lower production volumes on fixed costs,” Zimplats said.
Sydney Mufamadi, chairman of Zimplats, said in the miner’s annual report that mining and milling volumes for the year had decreased by 7% and 13% respectively from the previous year. He said mining had been affected by the suspension of production operations at the collapsed Bimha Mine.