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World’s No.2 Platinum Miner Faces Huge Political Risk In Zimbabwe

Experts at Johnson Matthey said last month that platinum is likely to post a bigger-than-expected supply deficit for 2015.

And news this week suggests that platinum production could be hit even harder than these observers are predicting.

That comes from the world’s number three platinum-producing nation, Zimbabwe. Where the government is making a strong move against the world’s second-largest platinum mining firm, Impala Platinum.

Local press reported Monday on statements from Impala’s Zimbabwe operating subsidiary, Zimplats. Which noted that the company could be at risk of losing half of its land holdings in the country, following an edict from national authorities. Related: Iran Looking To Ramp Up More Than Just Oil Production

Zimplats said that the firm received a letter from the government on December 28, requesting the release of 27,948 hectares within the firm’s mining license area — amounting to almost 50 percent of the total ground belonging to these operations.

This matter actually dates back to March 2013 — when the Zimbabwe government had originally decreed that Zimplats’ lands should be returned to the state because they aren’t being fully utilized.

Zimplats subsequently appealed the decision, with the issue then remaining unresolved over most of the past two years. Related: Is The Saudis Market Share Strategy Still Feasible?

But this latest news suggests the government has now decided to enforce the ruling — putting at least some of Zimplats’ operations here at risk. The company said it has reiterated its objections over the land grab to the government and is seeking “constructive dialogue” to resolve the issue.

All of which makes it appear that Zimplats’ production could be in jeopardy. With this move likely to deal a major blow to any remaining investment confidence Impala management holds in Zimbabwe, even if the company’s mines are able continue, following the loss of the acreage.

Any reduction in output could be very significant for the market, given that Zimplats accounts for over half of Zimbabwe’s yearly production of 400,000 ounces of platinum and 320,000 ounces of palladium. Watch for more news on the resolution of this issue over the coming weeks.

Here’s to a rock and a hard place

By Dave Forest

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