Aussie firm to build $300m platinum refinery

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HARARE – Zimbabwe has secured an independent Australian partner to build a $300 million platinum refinery, under a joint venture arrangement with State-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and a local player.


Mines minister Walter Chidakwa yesterday said the company —  Kell Technology (Kell) — was now scouting for a suitable location to set up a plant in partnership with Golden Sparrows, a local company.


“Two years ago, Kell said they have technology to refine Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) and that came at a time when we were looking for ways of treating PGM concentrate.


“…experiments were done, at a pilot plant in Perth using Unki and Mimosa over a 24-month period. Kell will hold a 49 percent stake while ZMDC has a 30 percent stake as Golden Sparrows has a 21 percent shareholding,” he said in the capital at a signing ceremony of the company’s shareholders.


“It has a processing capacity of 300 000 tonnes per year… The refinery is anticipated to be up and running 24 months from its 2018 ground-breaking,” Kell director Keith Liddel said.


Kell is also constructing a similar refinery in neighbouring South Africa.


The minister was also quick to point out that once the refinery gained enough capacity to process all the ore and matte being mined local, government would put in place legislation prohibiting the export of platinum concentrate.


“…but once we have processing capacity locally, we will institute a law that will ensure that the amount of concentrate that is exported takes care of the capacity that will have been established locally…


“In that case, a certain percentage of their concentrate must go through the refinery as established and we will then put a law to that effect. The law will cover matte platinum as well,” he said.


This comes as Chidakwa recently scrapped a 15 percent levy imposed on unrefined exports giving miners an ultimatum to establish a refinery.


Zimbabwe has the world’s largest platinum reserves after South Africa. Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum Holdings, the world’s two largest platinum producers, have mines in Zimbabwe, shipping platinum matte to South Africa for refining.


The platinum industry is nearing the 500 000 ounces of annual output needed to make a refinery viable.


Chidakwa has previously estimated the cost of the refinery and associated 600-megawatt power plant at $3,2 billion.

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