Africa Moyo Senior Business Reporter
Government’s insistence on value addition of minerals added shine to Zimbabwe’s export earnings last month, as sales from shipments of platinum group metals matte jumped 1 500 percent to $61 million.
It was $3,8 million in the comparative period last year.
This follows the commissioning of a $60 million smelter at Unki Mine in Shurugwi.
Statistics from the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) indicate that the impressive growth pushed overall sales from minerals — except gold and silver — to $1,2 billion in the January to September period from $1,1 billion a year ago, representing a 6 percent rise.
MMCZ is Government’s exclusive agent for marketing and selling of all minerals produced in Zimbabwe, bar silver and gold.
Zimbabwe used to export platinum concentrates for processing in South Africa.
PGMs were the country’s top foreign currency earners in the first nine months of 2018 at $421 million, a 13 percent jump from $374 million last year.
Platinum concentrates were the second top earner at $300 million, followed by high carbon ferro-chrome ($200 million), and diamond and chrome concentrates ($50 million each).
MMCZ said, “A total of 1,938 metric tonnes of white matte valued at $60,9 million was realised during the period under review compared to the same period last year when material valued at $3,8 million was sold, giving a positive variance in value of 1 495 percent.
“The huge jump in value is due to first export of PGMs matte by one of the producers who previously exported concentrates. During the same period last year, Zimplats had a scheduled furnace shutdown.”
Last year, Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Anglo American Platinum, which wholly owns Unki Platinum Mine, budgeted more than $62 million for a smelter as miners adapted to Government’s ban on unprocessed mineral exports.
In 2014, Government gave platinum producers — Zimplats, Mimosa and Unki — a January 2018 deadline to submit proposals to build a precious metals refinery.
The directive was followed by a 15 percent tax on unprocessed platinum in January 2016, but the decision was rescinded in July of the same year.
In the 2018 National Budget, the export tax on un-beneficiated and semi-beneficiated platinum was further deferred to January 1, 2019.
It was however, slashed from 15 percent to staggered rates of between one and five percent depending beneficiation level.
Mining has been on a roll, with gold contributing 28 percent ($692 million), platinum 23 percent ($566 million), nickel mattes 11 percent ($283 million), nickel ore and concentrates eight percent ($207 million), ferro chromium 5 percent ($136 million), chromium ores and concentrates two percent ($54,3 million), industrial diamonds 1 percent ($40 million), granite one percent ($14,5 million), and coal and semi-coke of coal one percent ($13,7 million) to export revenues in January-June2018.
Diamond and gold contributed 51 percent of all exports at $1,3 billion.
Meanwhile, Fidelity Printers and Refiners, a unit of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, says it is confident the 30-tonne gold target for 2018 will be met as deliveries for January-September stand at 28,2 tonnes.
FPR general manager Fradreck Kunaka added, “During the course of the year, approximately over a $100 million has been disbursed under the Gold Development Initiative Fund and this has gone a long way in enhancing economic productivity through promotion and development of the gold mining industry in Zimbabwe.
“Miners who benefited have managed to acquire equipment under the Fund and that has gone a long way in boosting the production of gold delivered to Fidelity Printers and Refiners.”