Zim platinum output to nearly double in three years


Zimbabwe’s platinum output is poised to nearly double in three years as key players in the industry embark on new projects and bring on stream those still under development, encouraged by buoyant global market prospects.
The Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) is close to commencing three joint venture projects for platinum extraction with unnamed Russian and Chinese companies.
Coupled with expansion projects by Zimbabwe Platinum Mines Limited (Zimplats), the country’s largest miner of platinum and palladium, the pipeline developments would see a major national output of the precious metal increasing almost two times over.
The country has the world’s second largest known platinum reserves after South Africa, which is also the world’s largest producer of the platinum group of metals.
Feasibility studies for the three mining projects involving ZMDC started in the first quarter of the year and are on schedule.
Jointly, the platinum three mining projects are expected to produce more than 200 000 ounces of platinum per year.
Dominic Mubaiwa, ZMDC chief executive officer, would however not be drawn to disclose when the new projects may come on stream.
Zimpalts is planning a second phase of the Ngezi expansion project under which an underground mine with the capacity to produce 2 million tonnes of platinum a year would be developed alongside a concentrator of the same capacity.
Other pipeline expansion projects include the development of three mines to increase the company’s annual output to 270 000 ounces from the current 180 000 ounces.
One of them, Unki mine, is expected to produce 60 000 ounces a year as from 2011 when a concentrator being constructed at the mine completes by the end of the year.
Zimplats also plans to add two million tonnes of platinum output per year when its metal refinery that it is establishing in the country starts running.
An estimated $500 million has been put into the project.
Last year, when Zimbabwe’s sector hit 100% operating capacity, platinum and palladium production in the country increased by 25% in 2008.
Investors capitalised on positive global market trends and the positive fiscal and investment environment but strengthened after the formation of inclusive government.
During the year, platinum prices increased to $1 416 per ounce from $926 per ounce in 2008, representing 53% increase.
Palladium prices rose to $393 per ounce from $185 per ounce at the opening fix.