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:: Zimbabwe: Amplats Invests $62m in Smelter
Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), which wholly owns Unki Platinum Mine near Shurugwi, has budgeted more than $62 million for a local smelter, as miners in the sector brace for Government's ban on unprocessed mineral exports. Local policymakers believe the country is not getting the maximum possible value from its minerals as commodities are being exported in raw form to overseas markets.
In 2014, Government gave the country's three biggest platinum producers -- Zimplats, Mimosa and Unki -- a January 2018 deadline to submit proposals to build a precious metals refinery. Amplats spokesperson Mr Mpumi Sithole told The Herald that civil and earthworks on the smelter, which is expected to have the capacity to process 63 000 tonnes per annum of concentrates, started in November 2016 after getting approval from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).
Hot commissioning of the smelter -- a process where operational tests for the facility are completed with inert material of water -- is forecast in the last three months of the year.
The company has managed to cut the timelines in which the smelter was expected to be completed by diverting material originally meant for its South African smelter.
Amplats has since decided to build the facility in Zimbabwe, rather than in South Africa. "Unki has been able to optimise the cost and time required to construct the smelter by redirecting to Zimbabwe equipment that Anglo American Platinum had ear-marked for constructing a smelter in South Africa," said Mr Sithole "Therefore, Anglo American Platinum has built a smelter in Zimbabwe rather than South Africa, provided technical support for the project and will provide technological transfer, resulting in a world-class smelter."
It is understood Unki will only outsource works to foreign contractors where local skills are not available. "Other than for that work which is highly specialised for which no local skills are available, we are utilising various local contractors such as Masimba Construction, JRG Goddard, Hogarths and numerous other local contractors," said Mr Sithole.
While platinum used to be exported as matte to South Africa, most producers are now shipping concentrates to refiners in neighbouring South Africa.
Zimplats, the country's biggest miner of the mineral that is mainly used in the manufacture of catalytic converters for the car industry and jewellery, is currently refurbishing its base metal refinery (BMR). A BMR is capable of separating minerals such as nickel, copper and chrome from platinum group metals. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe statistics show that as at May 12 this year, platinum exports had risen to $334 million from $282 million in the same period a year ago.
Overall, in 2016 production rose to 15,1 tonnes from 12,6 tonnes in 2015. Zimbabwe has the second biggest platinum reserves in the world after South Africa, but most of the resource is controlled by foreign-owned mines, particularly from South Africa. Zimplats, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, is 87 percent owned by Implats, while Mimosa -- the country's second-biggest producer of the mineral -- is jointly controlled by JSE-listed mining entities, Sibanye Gold and Implats.
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