Zimbabwe Platinum Producers Will Build Refinery, Minister Says

Platinum mining companies agreed to build a refinery in Zimbabwe after initially saying it wouldn’t be economically viable, according to the country’s government.

“I am happy that they have pledged their commitment to this goal,” Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told a mining conference today in the resort town of Victoria Falls. “In our discussions I am told they are going to cooperate.”

Zimbabwe has entreated platinum producers to construct a refinery to help raise the value of its exports and drive the recovery of its economy. An agreement would mark a change in stance from the Chamber of Mines’ producers group, which said this month the nation’s platinum industry needs as much as $5.3 billion if it’s to meet output targets and build refining units.

Two companies are being considered to construct the plant, Mines Minister Walter Chidakwa said Feb. 18 without naming them.

Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Aquarius Platinum Ltd. and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., the biggest miners of the metal in Zimbabwe, have declined to comment on the short-listing process. The companies’ local units would be compelled to send ore mined in the country to the facility.

Zimbabwe, which has the world’s largest known reserves of platinum after neighboring South Africa, also has ambitions to expand gold mining. The nation plans to raise annual gold output to 50 metric tons in the next five years, becoming one of the top five producers in Africa, Chinamasa said today.

Zimbabwe produced 14 tons of the metal last year, according to the Chamber of Mines, representing the mining companies. Output remains half what it was in the late 1990s.

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