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Zimplats’ expansion to boost Zimbabwe platinum output

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MEMORY MATARANYIKA

Harare – INCREASED platinum production at Zimplats, the Zimbabwean unit of world number two platinum producer, Impala Platinum, is expected to boost Zimbabwe’s 2013 output of the precious metal to 400 000 ounces, platinum refinery group, Johnson Matthey said on Tuesday.

Zimplats’ massive expansion project is expected to add about 90,000 ounces of platinum production capacity to the company’s productivity. This is expected to ramp up Zimplats’ productivity to 270,000 ounces per year by 2015.

The bullish sentiment by Johnson Matthey is in line with the platinum mining groups to stick to their Zimbabwe operations despite requirements by the government that they give away majority shares to black Zimbabwean groups under a contentious empowerment policy.

President Robert Mugabe said at the weekend that his government would move in to ban exports of raw platinum to South Africa for refinery. Zimplats and Mimosa have yet to comment on the threat to ban raw platinum exports to South Africa.

Anglo American Platinum, which runs the Unki mine; Impala Platinum which operates Zimplats and Aquarius Platinum which jointly owns Mimosa mine together with Implats are all undertaking expansion projects to ramp up Zimbabwe’s platinum output.

Earlier indications had been that the Zimbabwean platinum groups would produce about 365 000 ounces of platinum this year but Johnson Matthey is bullish that this can be surpassed although this would require significant investments.

“You’ve certainly got some expansion still kicking in. It’s going to take another big chunk of capital investment,” said Peter Duncan, general manager for market research at Johnson Matthey yesterday.

The 400 000 ounces platinum output projected for Zimbabwe this year by Johnson Matthey is 18% higher than last year’s output. 2013 production of palladium and rhodium, which fall under the platinum group of metals, are projected to rise 17% and 14% to 310,000 ounces and 33,000 ounces respectively.

“I wouldn’t like to bet whether people will have the confidence to. Certainly it has the potential to grow.”

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