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Zimbabwe’s Mining Output Jumps as Nation Recovers From Recession

Mineral production from Zimbabwe, which has the world’s second-biggest platinum and chrome reserves after South Africa, doubled last year to $1.38 billion as the country’s economy recovers from a decade-long recession, Harare-based Robertson Economics said.

The southern African nation boosted output from $672 million in 2009, economist John Robertson said in an e-mailed statement today, citing figures from the country’s Chamber of Mines. Platinum production rose 26 percent to 8.6 metric tons in 2010, earning $409 million, while gold generated $380 million from 9.6 tons, compared with $157 million from 4.9 tons a year earlier, he said.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change formed a coalition government in 2009, helping to end a political crisis and lift the economy out of recession. Platinum and gold production will probably reach 12.5 and 13 tons respectively this year, with total mining output expected to grow 44 percent, the nation’s central bank said on Jan. 29.

The government wants local Zimbabweans to benefit more from the increase in output, particularly from mines. Foreign-owned miners like Zimplats Ltd., Rio Tinto Plc and Anglo American Plc were on March 28 given 45 days to show how they will dispose of 51 percent of their Zimbabwe operations.

Zimbabwe produced 154,336 tons of high carbon ferrochrome worth $135 million in 2010, more than double the 72,223 tons in 2009, Robertson said.

Expanding Smelter

Sinosteel Corp., China’s second-biggest iron-ore trading company, is Zimbabwe’s largest chrome ore miner through its Zimasco Ltd. unit. Zimasco said March 3 that it plans to spend $300 million to expand its Kwekwe-based smelter. Zimbabwe been mining chrome on Zimbabwe’s Great Dyke mountain range since about 1918.

Coal production jumped 60 percent to 2.66 million tons last year, Robertson said. The fuel, mined mainly by the Hwange Colliery Co. Ltd., generated $97 million. Nickel output rose to 6,133 tons in 2010 from 4,858 tons in the previous year, he said. Nickel is mined in the northeastern town of Bindura by Mwana Africa Plc-owned Bindura Nickel Corp. Ltd.

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