The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Implats Withdraws From Madagascar Nickel Project

Harare — IMPALA Platinum (Implats) has withdrawn from a proposed nickel project in Madagascar in a development that could see the Zimbabwe Platinum Mines majority shareholder redirecting resources to local operations.

Implats, which also owns half of Mimosa, had pushed a US$750 million expansion of its local operations to between 2008 and 2009 from March this year to accommodate the nickel project -- Ambatovy.

In a statement, Implats said it had withdrawn from the Ambatovy Project without giving reasons.

"Following a meeting in London on 30 November 2005, among Sumitomo Corporation, Implats and Dynatec Corporation, Implats has delivered a formal notice of withdrawal under the Shareholders Agreement.

"Sumitomo and Dynatec have confirmed that they remain committed to moving forward with the Ambatovy Project as expeditiously as possible," said Implats.

It was reported in the South African media early this year that Implats had opted to develop a nickel venture in Madagascar leading to the delay in the implementation of the local expansion programme.

Nickel is one of the by-products, among other group metals, that the company mines when it extracts platinum.

Implats finance director Mr David Brown was quoted in the South African Press saying the Madagascar operation was not an alternative to the Zimbabwean expansion but was a "complementary strategy".

The local expansion drive is expected to enable Implats become one of the world's largest producers of platinum.

Platinum mining in Zimbabwe has emerged as one of the most lucrative businesses and there has been a lot of interest from multinational corporations.

Zimbabwe has the second largest platinum deposits, after South Africa, and it has benefited immensely from the depletion of reserves in Russia, which has been one of the traditional producers.

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