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Impala, Amplats Study $3 Billion Zimbabwe Platinum Plant

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., Anglo American Platinum Ltd. and Aquarius Platinum Ltd. are studying building a $3 billion platinum and base metal refining complex in Zimbabwe, an industry group said.

The companies are considering jointly building a smelter, a base metals refinery and a precious metals refinery, the Platinum Producers Committee, which represents the miners, said in a statement handed to Bloomberg News. Platinum occurs with a number of other precious metals including palladium and rhodium as well base metals, used in industry, such as nickel.

Impala, through its Zimbabwe Platinum Mines Ltd. unit, operates the Ngezi mine and runs the Mimosa operation in a venture with Aquarius. Anglo American Platinum, known as Amplats, owns the Unki mine. Together the mines are forecast to produce about 365,000 ounces of platinum this year. Zimbabwe has the biggest platinum deposits after South Africa and accounts for about 6 percent of world production.

“The PPC are still finalizing the cost of construction and commissioning of these units,” the group said.

Additional costs will include power supply, roads, water and housing, the group said. Zimbabwe can’t currently supply the more than 100 megawatts of electricity the complex would need, it said.

Power ‘Critical’

“The critical requirement to spur growth in our industry is power,” it said.

Aquarius declined to comment, Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for the company at Russell & Associates, said by e-mail. Mpumi Sithole, an Amplats spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Mining companies operating in Zimbabwe are compelled by law to cede or sell control of their assets to the government or black local citizens.

“As a richly endowed platinum country, it is important for Zimbabwe and the platinum businesses operating in Zimbabwe to understand how this industry can be advanced over time,” Alice Lourens, an Impala spokeswoman, said in an e-mail response to questions.

Amplats and Impala, the world’s two biggest producers of the metal, are based in Johannesburg.

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