Unki, Mimosa on course to secure smelter facility

Tinashe Makichi Business Reporter
Unki and Mimosa Mines are weighing options on whether to set up a new refinery or to utilise existing facilities once they are upgraded.

The two mining giants are looking at either a greenfield facility or using Bindura Nickel Corporation smelter, Empress Nickel Refinery or the Zimplats Base Metal Refinery.

Unki Mines chief finance officer Mr Colin Chibafa told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy at a mining industry workshop hosted by Buy Zimbabwe and the Chamber of Mines last Friday that Unki and Mimosa were on course to implement their beneficiation programmes in line with Government’s policy of value addition and beneficiation.

“Unki and Mimosa Mines require additional time to explore the possibility of securing smelting facilities locally either a new greenfield facility, Bindura Nickel Corporation or any other parties who might be interested.

“We are weighing our options and once we ascertain smelter facilities to use, we hope this will go a long way in meeting our goals as platinum companies,” said Mr Chibafa.

Mimosa Mines chairman Mr Winston Chitando said the imposition of a 15 percent tax on unrefined platinum is posing viability challenges to the miners but plans to implement value addition and beneficiation programme are on course.

As the two companies are working towards the smelter initiative, Zimplats is already on the front foot to operationalise its base metal refinery by June next year.

The rehabilitation exercise is expected to consume $100 million, while expansion of the plant’s circuits to accommodate its annual output of 270 000 ounces will push the budget to $190 million.

Zimplats will seek to further develop the base metal refinery into a precious metal refinery and put up more furnaces to accommodate material from other local miners at an additional cost of about $500 million.

Beneficiating the platinum to matte enables producers to realise 88,5 percent of potential revenue; at base metal refinery stage they get 89,7 percent, rising to 90 percent at precious metal stage.

The committee, however, said while the smelter initiative was noble but there was need for transparency among platinum miners in their operations if Government is to lift the 15 percent tax imposed on unrefined platinum exports.

Parliamentarians are of the view that transparency in the platinum sector may be an encouraging first step in answering calls for public disclosure of mining revenues and payments by mining companies and Government as a way of promoting transparency and accountability which have been lacking in the mining sector.

“There has been lack of disclosure and transparency in the mining sector and how then do you expect Government to lift the export tax when some of these companies cannot even reveal how much they are earning from their operations.

“This builds distrust between Government and the miners which is not a good thing. Lack of disclosure among mining companies has deprived Government of its earnings,” said committee chairperson Mr Lovemore Matuke.

Chamber of Mines president Mr Alex Mhembere, who is also Zimplats chief executive, said it would not be easy for Government to get full disclosure from companies that are not listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange as they believe they are not obliged to disclose in- formation.

“Lack of disclosure has been a challenge among non-listed companies because they think they don’t have an obligation to disclose their figures even though there have been multiple leakages of minerals in the mining sector,” said Mr Mhembere.

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