Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Government yesterday signed a $4,2 billion platinum investment agreement with a Cyprus-based company, Karo Resources, as investors continue to show confidence in policies formulated under the new dispensation.
The deal — the largest to date in the mining sector — was signed at Munhumutapa Offices in Harare by Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando and Karo Resources chairman Mr Loucas Pouroulis at a ceremony attended by President Mnangagwa, Vice President Kembo Mohadi and senior Government officials.
The mine will be located in the Mhondoro-Ngezi area, while the deal includes the establishment of a 600MW thermal power station in Matabeleland North and chrome mining.
President Mnangagwa welcomed the signing of the deal, but blamed bureaucratic bungling and corruption for its delay.
“I am happy that this day has come. This has taken more than six years to reach this day. Had we embraced their intention to invest in this country in platinum the year they came and I took them to then President (Mr Mugabe), we should have been on the 6th year of the programme but because of bureaucracy and other unnamed vested interests which are corrupt, this could not happen.”
President Mnangagwa said the onus was now on Karo Resources to implement the project according to the timelines they have provided.
“Now that this has happened, we have been able to give you the concession. I have seen the timelines, the ball is not anymore in our court, it’s now in your court.
“You have been complaining that you want to put money and in fact, at one time they raised this and took it away because we could not move.
“The Zimbabwean side was something else I cannot describe but now I am saying Zimbabwe is now open for business and whoever stands in the way of making business in this country will fall.
“So, Minister of Mines, they have given you their timelines, keep them to their timelines and on our part, wherever Zimbabwe has an obligation, we must fulfil our obligation and if you fail come to me and say your ministers are dragging their feet and I will make sure I cut their feet and make them walk, so it is not business as usual anymore,” President Mnangagwa said.
The first phase of production is expected to commence in 2020 with an annual output of 3,6 million tonnes or ore and 350 000 ounces of platinum group of metals.
The fourth phase of production is expected to be implemented by 2023 where output is expected to be at 14,4 million tonnes of ore and 1,4 million ounces of platinum group of metals making the venture the largest in the country.
Karo Resources are also expected to construct a base metal refinery and precious metal refinery by 2024 and is willing to work with other platinum producers in their establishment.
The power plant is expected to be operational by 2022 while chrome mining is expected to start by October this year.
At least 15 000 people are expected to employed directly when the project is complete while 75 000 others will be employed by downstream industries.
In his remarks Minister Chitando said the deal would change the mining landscape in the country.
“Today is a historic day in the history of the mining industry in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Historic in two ways, firstly what has been signed today is the largest investment structure in the history of the mining industry in Zimbabwe. Historic as well from the fact that the landscape of the Zimbabwean mining industry will never be the same as the provisions of the agreement are implemented and as other investment initiatives unfold, a number of which will become public over the next few weeks.”
The minister also said they would establish a secretariat to facilitate the implementation of the agreement and others they will enter into in the future.
“Government is setting up by 1st May, a full time secretariat for investment facilitation. This will be a section in the Ministry on Mines and Mining Development, dedicated to facilitate the execution of this agreement and other agreements to be unveiled in the next few weeks,” Minister Chitando said adding the agreement complied with indigenisation laws.
Mr Pouroulis pledged to meet the set timelines.
“This could be a world class fully integrated PGM complex with its own coal mine and power station. The honourable minister mentioned the timelines and we believe we can achieve the production figures in five years.
“When all this is finished, it will potentially grow the GDP of Zimbabwe by 20 percent and it means we can put the country in unprecedented growth trajectory,” he said.