EDITORIAL COMMENT: Unki platinum smelter to accelerate beneficiation/value addition drive

18 May, 2019 - 00:05 0 Views
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Unki platinum smelter to accelerate beneficiation/value addition drive The President, mine officials and other guests on a tour of the Unki plant

The Chronicle

WE applaud mining conglomerate, Anglo American, for constructing a smelting plant at its Unki platinum in Shurugwi as this will accelerate efforts by Government towards value addition and beneficiation of the country’s minerals. 

Currently, other platinum miners such as Impala and Mimosa are taking their ore to South Africa where smelters then crush the mineral in readiness for processing. Zimbabwe loses not only in terms of platinum which is exported cheap and raw but other minerals which are found in the mineral’s ore such as palladium, iridium, rhodium, osmium, ruthenium and even gold in some instances. 

With the country heavily reliant on mining for much needed foreign currency, it is only natural that it prioritises its mineral resources especially valuable ones such as gold, platinum and diamonds. Five years ago, Government implored platinum miners to construct smelters so that Zimbabwe derives benefits from exporting the processed form of the mineral which fetches higher prices than its raw form.

All three major platinum miners pledged to build refineries but Unki is the first to commission one, demonstrating its seriousness in a long term relationship with Zimbabwe. On Thursday, President Mnangagwa commissioned the US$62 million plant, describing it as a milestone achievement not only for Unki but the nation as a whole. 

He said Government will, going forward, stop exports of raw minerals in pursuit of increased value addition and beneficiation. “I am happy that with regards to platinum we have taken the required steps. With regards to diamonds we still export 90 percent of our diamonds unprocessed. This should stop as we go forward. We must value add our diamonds. The same goes for all the other minerals like chrome,” said President Mnangagwa. 

He said the new investment by Unki was expected to go a long way in transforming the country’s mining industry in line with Government objectives as espoused in the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), a short term economic blueprint. The President said the state-of-the-art smelter will further accelerate local beneficiation and value addition of platinum group of metals, which will help increase foreign currency inflows through exports of processed high value mineral products.

“Investments such as this go a long way in facilitating the modernisation and industrialisation agenda as our country progresses towards becoming a middle-income economy by 2030. I therefore heartily congratulate Anglo American Limited for this achievement,” said President Mnangagwa. 

We agree with the President and implore other platinum miners to emulate Unki by constructing smelting plants. The investment by Unki shows that they have confidence in Zimbabwe and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Zimbabwe is among the world’s biggest platinum producers and has clearly enhanced its standing and visibility on the global economic stage with the commissioning of the Unki plant. 

The impact of the plant goes beyond just mining but extends to other sectors as such as transport, equipment manufacturing, geological services and educational research. In the same vein, we are glad that the President also took the opportunity to clarify that Government had liberalised all mining investments including diamond and platinum sectors after scrapping the previous indigenisation regulations that scared away investors. 

“When we were having a briefing earlier on, Unki management raised the issue of indigenisation and in particular with regards to platinum. It is true that when we changed policy on indigenisation we said platinum and diamond will remain until a new policy relating to those two minerals is pronounced. 

“We did so last year in September and October, possibly the Unki management did not catch up with events. Platinum and the diamond sector are also now affected by the removal of indigenisation,” said President Mnangagwa amid applause. 

“We have liberalised investment and there are no restrictions on shareholding in the mining sector by foreign investors. This, therefore, means that in the mining sector foreign investors have unrestricted shareholding. We would like free partnerships as outcomes of negotiations between investors and other local partners. Investors are also free to choose to partner locals on mutually beneficial and agreed conditions.” 

We welcome the President’s clarification and hope that prospective investors have been put on notice. We call on them to pursue investment opportunities particularly in the mining sector which offers enticing rewards. On its part, Government is aggressively implementing Ease of Doing Business Reforms by removing bottlenecks that undermine the flow of capital. 

Indeed the Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra is not only a slogan but a reality. While Zimbabwe continues to receive unfavourable international media coverage largely because of legacy issues spilling over from the activities of the First Republic, it is quietly charting a new path for itself couched in the reform agenda of the new dispensation. In the short period he has been in charge, President Mnangagwa has achieved commendable milestones and is on course to leading Zimbabwe to a middle income status by 2030. Let’s give him time.

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