Zimbabwe to Ensure Clarity Over Mining Policy, Minister Says

(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe, home to the world’s second-largest reserves of platinum group metals, will ensure there’s clarity over mining policy as the southern African nation seeks to attract investment, according to Mines Minister Winston Chitando.

The government is courting mining companies to participate in the industry and help boost the ailing economy after President Emmerson Mnangagwa replaced former long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in November. Zimbabwe has sizable deposits of gold, chrome, lithium, coal and iron ore, in addition to platinum and diamonds.

“Zimbabwe is under-explored,” Chitando said at a conference in Johannesburg on Monday. There is now a fortnightly meeting between the Chamber of Mines and the minister to make sure “things are made easier to grow the business,” he said.

Changes to the country’s mining laws are primarily administrative and should be passed by the end of May, the minister told reporters. Zimbabwe will be announcing specific developmental policies during the next few weeks, he said.

Platinum producers including Anglo American Platinum Ltd. and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. slowed production as Zimbabwe’s economy grew more troubled and access to foreign currency dried up. Both companies were also forced to cede part of shareholdings to the government.

Ownership Rules

Companies mining platinum and diamonds are subject to 51 percent government ownership and this policy isn’t expected to change, Chitando said. Nonetheless, specific state offices will be set up for certain minerals, such as lithium, in order to better serve mining companies, he said. Zimbabwe is also in talks to raise funding to collect more geological data.

The country estimates that there’s been as much as $6 billion of new mining investments since Mnangagwa took office, Chitando said. There were only three exploration licenses before he toppled Mugabe and that figure has risen to more than 30 with the number expected to rise above 100 in the next three months, he said.

The discovery of the giant Marange diamond field in the east of the country in 2006 lead to an initial rush of artisanal miners, followed by groups led by closely-held Chinese and South African companies. A decade after the Marange diamonds were found, Zimbabwe ordered all diamond-mining companies to end operations, leave behind equipment and vacate their premises after the government didn’t renew their licenses.

Now the ministry is working closely to make sure artisanal mining grows and “works within the confines of all the laws,” Chitando said.

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