Very surprising news yesterday from one of the world’s most important — and most difficult — mining jurisdictions. The platinum-rich nation of Zimbabwe.
The big revelations here came from major platinum producer Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), which said that it is progressing with a plan to make a major investment in the country for upgrading and processing platinum.
Amplats officials told local press they have just received approval from the Zimbabwe government for the first step of a platinum smelting plant. With the country’s Environmental Management Agency signing off on an environmental impact assessment for the project.
Amplats said that with this key approval in hand, they are now moving ahead with smelter construction. With mine general manager Walter Nemasase quoted as saying, “We have plans to construct a new smelting plant at our mining site. The deliberations have been made. The construction is likely to take 18 to 24 months depending on the flow of capital.”
Nemasase did note that construction has not yet begun in earnest. Saying that Amplats is working on “technical issues” related to the project. But nonetheless, it appears that Amplats is serious about moving forward with this major project.
That’s a very significant step for the Zimbabwe platinum sector. With the government here pushing platinum producers for the last few years to build processing plants in country (right now, platinum ores are railed to South Africa for processing). Related: Oil Continues To Tumble Over Market Uncertainty
Most recently, the government had even threatened to impose high taxes — or perhaps even shut down mines — if companies didn’t comply with building smelters. But even then, it was unclear if any producers in the country would be willing to put down the millions, or perhaps even billions, needed for such a project.
But this week’s news suggests Amplats believes Zimbabwe’s platinum is important enough to spend money on. Which makes sense, given this is one of only two nations outside Russia that produce primary platinum in any quantity.
Watch for more news on when Amplats will commence smelter construction, and what the capital costs will be. And to see whether other producers in the country like Implats and Aquarius will follow suit.
Here’s to betting on the baddies,
By Dave Forest
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