Harare – Zimbabwe would allow platinum mining companies to continue exporting an unrefined form of the precious metal, it said on Friday.

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IOL BR Zimbabwe Platinum 0221[1]

Employees work near a platinum smelter at Selous Metallurgical Complex near Harare. Zimbabwe will now allow platinum companies to export unrefined ore to South Africa, going back on previous threats to impose a levy on unrefined exports. Photo: Reuters.

This followed a mine owned by Impala Platinum (Implats) and Aquarius Platinum and another controlled by Anglo Platinum (Angloplat) halting exports in response to concerns that the government would start levying a 15 percent tax on unbeneficiated platinum shipments.\n

The Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe has said that the industry is facing uncertainty and viability constraints.

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Alex Mhembere, the Zimplats chief executive and outgoing president of the chamber, said on Friday at a mining indaba in Victoria Falls: “The outlook for most of the minerals that we produce in Zimbabwe is unstable” and asked the government to “improve on policy consistency”.

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It also emerged from platinum mining industry sources and executives that Mimosa and Unki mines – owned by Implats and Aquarius Platinum and Angloplat respectively – had stopped shipping out platinum concentrate.

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Uncertainty

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“Unki and Mimosa had stopped exporting platinum because there was a genuine fear that the 15 percent levy would be implemented. It would have rendered the two operations unviable,” a source said.

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The government has threatened to levy a 15 percent tax on raw platinum exports although industry and government sources said the levy would be lifted when Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa presented his mid-term budget review in the next few weeks.

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Zimbabwe Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidakwa announced on Friday that he had directed the state revenue authority, Zimra, to allow the platinum firms to export platinum for final refinery in South Africa until ongoing deliberations on the setting up of a refinery were done.

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If no agreement was reached, Chidakwa said, he would then direct the revenue collector to start levying the platinum firms a 15 percent tax. “No minister wants to see a reduction in production. We must continue to earn what we were earning from mining if not increasing the value.

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Exports to resume

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“I am not happy with the fact that platinum concentrate has not been going out (of the country). I want to call upon the Zimra to enable the platinum companies to export and then if we have not finalised, then can charge the 15 percent levy,” Chidakwa said.

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During the first quarter – statistics released by the chamber last week showed – coal, gold and nickel had risen by 55.8 percent, 25.2 percent and 5.3 percent respectively.

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However, chrome ore output fell 45.3 percent while palladium, rhodium and platinum had recorded declines in output of less than 3 percent.

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The chamber said levies and fee burdens were stifling the industry and highlighted that the government needed to act on applications for exclusive prospecting orders (EPOs).

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As a matter of policy, the government had said last year that it would create a state exploration company that would be funded from a levy collected from mining firms.

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Chamber executive David Matyanga said: “No new EPO application has been processed during the quarter (to end March). This situation is cause for concern as it slows down mineral exploration.”

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The Chamber of Mines has however called for “confidence-building measures” to attract investors into mineral exploration in Zimbabwe.

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Most mining houses in Zimbabwe had reportedly shelved expansion projects.