Platinum prices have broken down the last few months. Falling to $1,300 per ounce--the lowest level the market has seen since 2009.
But even as investors are dropping the metal, some key players are watching the platinum market closely.
Including the U.S. government.
At least that was the message from local press in one of the world's major platinum-producing nations: Zimbabwe. Where America has reportedly been putting on pressure for the country to abandon ambitious plans to expand platinum output.
According to Zimbabwe's largest newspaper, The Herald, the U.S. government recently sent official communications asking the government to back off a planned $3 billion investment in the platinum sector from Russian interests. As columnist Nathaniel Manheru (widely thought to be a spokesperson for Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe) put it:
"A week or two ago, the US government, through its local embassy, sent an official communication to the Zimbabwean Government... It spelt out American expectations on Zimbabwe, namely that Zimbabwe was expected (read required) to support [Russian] sanctions by avoiding any association with companies sanctioned by the Americans and their Western allies... yes you guess right, that targets the new US$3bn-plus platinum investment by the Russians at Darwendale! It (Zimbabwe) should not proceed or else we are under sanctions."
If true, this warning from the U.S. government signals a strong interest in the platinum sector. Perhaps a consequence of the fact the metal has in the past been considered a strategic one by many Western nations.
And the recent Russia-Zimbabwe deal does give some cause for concern in terms of platinum supply. Zimbabwe is the world's third-largest producer of the metal. And probably the only nation right now that could potentially expand supply to the West--given production problems in number-one producer South Africa, and the fact that the only other major supplier is Russia itself.
Zimbabwe could thus become a battleground of sorts for global metal supply. It will be interesting to see if America proposes its own counter-investments in mining here--and if the search for platinum in "friendlier" jurisdictions around the world accelerates.
Here's to a rare metal,
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