‘Sink $1,4b in refining facilities’

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THE government has called for platinum miners operating in Zimbabwe to invest about $1,4 billion in refinery facilities, to enable the country to draw maximum benefit from its mineral resources.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

Addressing delegates at the Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba held in Bulawayo last week, Mines and Mining Development minister, Walter Chidakwa said there was need for platinum producers in the country to invest in refinery facilities.

“A smelter will cost about $700 million, a base metal refinery will cost between $250 million and $400 million….and a precious metal refinery will cost about $400 million. So approximately $1,4 billion. Have you heard me bemoan and cry that minerals must be value-added and beneficiated home? What it means we must look at investment of $1,4 billion,” Chidakwa said.

“The people that we are asking to make an investment of $1,4 billion are the same, Impala Platinum in South Africa and Anglo-American. They have these facilities already in South Africa and they have got capacity to process not just South African platinum but also Zimbabwean platinum.”

“For them the world is a village. They can invest, put one plant there, put one plant there and for them it does not make any difference. But I reminded them last week (last of last week) that in 1958 they migrated platinum refining from the United Kingdom to South Africa and I said to them the same aspiration that made you migrate that refinery from the United Kingdom to South Africa in 1958 is the same aspiration that makes Zimbabweans want it to be migrated to Zimbabwe,” he said.

Chidakwa said by setting up a platinum refinery plant in Zimbabwe, the economy would develop through massive job creation.

“So we can create, not just the mining jobs which are low skill, low income but also that we can create the high skilled jobs, high income jobs. That’s why we continue to say we want it done in Zimbabwe,” he said.

But with Zimbabwe’s hostile investment climate, it could be hard for such a huge investment to take place.

As they are waiting for mining giants companies to put up their investments into the country, Chidakwa said they have been looking at other alternative technologies.

“There is an alternative technology that we have been looking at which so far has been said to be cheaper than the conventional old technologies that are operating today. We have said we lose nothing by trying it. If it works, then we will have much faster, much cheaper, much cost competitive platinum refineries,” he said.

The process of extracting metals associated with platinum group metals starts at mining, concentration, which is the crushing and flotation, smelting, base metal refining, recovery of base metals such as nickel, copper, cobalt and precious metal refinery among others.

In Zimbabwe, only a few stages of the process are carried out, and semi-processed output is shipped to South Africa for refinery.