New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Threatens to Cancel Zimplats Licence

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Friday warned the local unit of South Africa's Implats Platinum to build a refinery within two years or face the possibility of losing its licence.

"We are giving them a warning ... unless we have a refinery within two years we will say we do not want with our minerals. We will stop them from exporting platinum to create jobs for others who refine it," Mugabe told delegates attending his Zanu PF party's 14th annual conference in Chinhoyi, about 100km west of the capital, Harare.

South African miners, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum, the world's second-largest platinum miner, have all agreed to sell 51 percent of shares in their local operations to black investors under the Zimbabwe government's empowerment laws, but the government last month said it would be willing to let them retain majority shares if they build a refinery in the country.

Zimplats said in its July-September financial results that Zimbabwe's new indigenisation minister, Francis Nhema, would review the indigenisation agreement, which it said was non-binding, as well as discuss the government's plans to repossess half of the company's mining claims.

But Mugabe said the company was remitting very little to government in the form of royalties.

"Zimplats has been exporting platinum and we have got very little even by way of earnings back. We don't know where the money is going," said Mugabe.

"When we sell our materials, the earnings must come back and we will have to look now at what has been happening to get explanation as to where the earnings of our platinum has been going."

Aquarius Platinum, together with Implats have agreed to sell a 51 percent stake in their Mimosa mine joint venture to locals in a $550 million deal to meet empowerment targets.

Zimbabwe has the second largest known platinum reserves after South Africa.

Mugabe also said his government would 'shake up' state-owned mining firm, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and will centralise diamond and gold marketing to plug the loopholes in the current system.

"At the moment it is free for all. The system lends itself to smuggling in a big way .The same with our gold. No more selling of gold to anyone, except only to Fidelity, (a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe," he said.

ZMDC operates seven joint-venture mines in the Marange diamond fields which produced eight million carats in 2012 and generated $685 million.

Mugabe said only "three or four of those ventures were doing something worth talking about."

On Tuesday, mines minister Walter Chidhakwa fired the boards of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, Minerals Marketing Corporation and Marange Resources to facilitate assessment of their operations.

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