Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
President Mnangagwa has expressed satisfaction with progress so far in setting up operations at Karo Resources’ $4,2 billion platinum mine project in Mhondoro-Ngezi.
The President said this after a technical tour of the mining site yesterday.
The process is still in its first phase of exploration and the company has so far completed aeromagnetic survey, digital terrain mapping, aeromagnetic and geophysics study of the area while the drilling that will allow them to quantify the platinum resources on their special grant is expected to be completed by year-end.
Government and Karo Resources signed the large scale integrated platinum investment agreement in March last year while the ground breaking ceremony was held in July.
Yesterday’s tour was also attended by Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando, various senior Government officials and Karo Resources chairman Mr Loucas Pouroulis and other company executives.
He said the developments at the site put paid to scepticism that had been expressed by some sections of the media.
“A few months after we had our ground breaking, the media began saying these mega deals are fantasy, a pie in the sky but now I am sure you know that the pie is never in the sky but on the ground here in Ngezi,” he said.
“The timelines set by Karo Resources in terms of implementation of this project have been fulfilled and in many areas they have been ahead of the timelines that they had given us but I felt it was necessary to come and satisfy myself that what I am being told by the Minister is what is on the ground. This process, the first phase of exploration, has taken on board in terms of employment, I am told about 200 people and this only within a period of less than five months.”
He added that when fully operational, the mine was set to employ more than 25 000 people and many others in downstream industries.
“At the height and full employment of this company I am told that direct employment will be in the region of 25 000 and the majority of the employees will come from Mashonaland West except the specialised skills which may not be in the area and will come from elsewhere in the country.
“Construction of houses will take place, technology, skills will come to this area as a result of this development in this area,” he added.
President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had a vision to be a middle income economy by 2030 with mining and other economic sectors expected to make contributions.
“Our vision is for Zimbabwe’s economy to be a middle income by 2030 and to do so we have various sub-sectors that need to contribute to that and the mining sector is one. The Minister of Mines and Mining Development (Winston Chitando) has put his neck on the block to say by 2030 the mining sector will contribute $12 billion. If things do not change, I see him surpassing that by 2030,” the President said.
He added that there was a need to mechanise agriculture and boost tourism through aggressive marketing of the tourism sites in the country among other initiatives to grow the economy.
The President also narrated how the project had been sabotaged during former President Mugabe’s administration.
“I first took Mr Pouroulis to the former President (Mugabe) in 2005 and he informed him that he wanted to get permission from him as the President to begin this project. This was 2005 and the President granted him that permission but this did not happen until last year. He was coming every single year perhaps three or four times a year trying to have this project but he did not facilitate. We can only speculate why perhaps Minister Chitando did not ask what they asked.”
President Mnangagwa said the project was now back on its feet because of the thrust taken by the new administration in the Second Republic.
“However, since last year when I took over, I took the same position that my former President took and that is to allow the project to be implemented.
“It has taken off and from 2005 up to now, it’s 14 years. This project could have been by now fully operational and production could have been at its highest. The infrastructure envisaged by this project could have been in place.”
The operation envisages the construction of a 600MW power plant and base metal refinery in conjunction with other platinum mining companies.