THE government has repossessed over 27 000 hectares of land from the country’s top platinum miner, Zimplats, with immediate effect.
REPORT BY BERNARD MPOFU
This comes as the State moves to reclaim idle claims in a bid to court new investors, Mines minister Obert Mpofu said yesterday.
Mpofu told a Press conference that the repossessed claims were enough to accommodate five big investors, amid disclosures the platinum mining firms were holding on to the land for speculative purposes.
The figure represents nearly a tenth of the size of Harare. The measure, according to Mpofu, will extend to all mining companies under-utilising their claims.
“As the sole regulator and promoter of the mining industry in terms of the mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05), the ministry is focusing on the creation of real opportunities and investment space by making more land available for new investments, attracting new players into the industry and acting on excess and unutilised ground,” Mpofu said.
“This will be done through reviewing all mining rights deemed to be in excess. To that end and following protracted discussions on the release of excess ground, my ministry is taking a step forward to repossess excess ground from Zimplats measuring 27 948 hectares.”
Mpofu said the claims would be up for grabs using an approved indigenisation model compelling foreign-owned companies to sell 51% to black Zimbabweans. Zimplats, a unit of South Africa’s Impala Platinum, has already complied with the country’s empowerment law.
“We have seen that the current model at the diamond companies with ZMDC holding 51% or more shareholding is viable and we could see that in the new platinum ventures, of course with the approval of the indigenisation ministry,” he added.
Zimbabwe has the second largest known platinum reserves in the world after South Africa.
Currently, three major mining companies — Zimplats, Unki and Mimosa — are mining the white metal on the Great Dyke pass. Zimplats, according to Mpofu, was granted a special mining lease in 1994 covering 25 years. He said geological information indicates that the total ground granted and mineral endowment therein has a lifespan far exceeding the prescribed period.
Turning to beneficiation of platinum, the Mines ministry said the government would ban exports of semi-processed platinum products in two years’ time. Already, mining companies have begun preparations to set up the first ever platinum group metals refinery.
“To that effect, platinum mining institutions are expected to present to us implementation towards fulfilling this requirement,” Mpofu said. Platinum producers have been arguing that it is uneconomical to have a refinery in Zimbabwe as output was too low.