Zimplats Chief executive Alex Mhembere
HARARE,– Zimbabwe’s largest platinum producer, Zimplats, has agreed to release 23,903 hectares of its unused ground, about half of its mineral resource, to government after a six-year wrangle over the land in a deal the miner says secures its future.
“Zimplats has agreed to release to the Government land measuring 23,903 hectares within Zimplats’ mining lease area in support of the Government’s efforts to enable participation by other investors in the platinum mining industry in Zimbabwe,” chief executive Alex Mhembere said on Wednesday.
In 2013, the government under former president Robert Mugabe moved to compulsory acquire land measuring 27,948 hectares within Zimplats’ special mining lease area under its ‘use it or lose it’ policy.
But Zimplats, a subsidiary of South Africa’s Implats, which had also given up ground covering 51 million ounces (36 percent of its total resource then) out of a total 141 million ounce resource in 2006 objected to the seizure of more claims, prompting the government to approach the courts for an order authorising the acquisition of the land.
Government has previously defended the land seizure, saying the miner had an excessive amount of ground and it wanted to distribute the claims to new companies despite failing to utilise previously acquired land.
“Following this release of ground, Zimplats now holds two separate and non-contiguous pieces of land measuring in aggregate 24,632 hectares. Consequently, the operating subsidiary applied for and was granted with effect from 31 May 2018, two separate mining leases over the two pieces of land measuring 6,605 hectares and 18,027 hectares respectively,” said Mhembere is a statement.
The smaller area Zimplats now holds includes the historical Hartley mining area and Selous Metallurgical Complex, while the larger portion holds the Ngezi mining operations, including the future Portal 10 mining area.
“The mining leases replace the special mining lease held by Zimplats, which was due for renewal in August 2019,” added Mhembere.
“The two mining leases issued to Zimplats’ operating subsidiary are valid for the life of mine of Zimplats’ mining operations and secure the operating subsidiary’s mining tenure.”
It is not yet clear if the the ground released by Zimplats is the one earmarked for the Loucas Pouroulis-linked Karo Resources after President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently signed a $4 billion deal with the miner.
The platinum project is expected to start in 2020 and produce 1,4 million ounces a year of platinum-group metals at full output.
Under its ‘use it or lose it’ policy, government also expropriated a combined 42,000 hectares from the country’s two largest ferrochrome producers – Zimbabwe Mining and Smelting Company and Zimbabwe Alloys in 2016, saying it needs to open the sector up to new players. – Source