Govt tiff stalls multi-million platinum project

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TAURAI MANGUDHLA

Sharp divisions have emerged in government over the shareholding structure of a multi-million dollar platinum project amid indications the inking of the terms sheet had faced some challenges prior to it getting approval, Business Times has learnt.

Zimbabwe has the second largest known platinum reserves after South Africa and the southern African country is largely dependent on the capital-intensive mining sector which contributes 65 percent of export receipts.

As reported by this paper earlier this month, two more investors have plans to invest millions into mining at a time the economy is badly in need of fresh funding and business activity. The deal will now be signed today by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the foreign shareholders.

It has since been established that the Mines ministry has been in constant conflict with ZMDC on the modalities around the deal involving  the Nigerian businessman Benedict Peters’ Bravura, which is eyeing the platinum sector. There also indications that there had been some clashes with regards to the nature of people pushing the deal.

Information at hand suggests the ministry had preferred to seal the deal and chase set timelines for mid- June, but government’s mining special investment vehicle Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) had been stalling progress on the grounds that it is not satisfied with terms of what is to be their joint venture agreement with a foreign company. Peters is said to have jetted into Zimbabwe a few days ago ahead of the planned signing ceremony today.

Although specific clauses that have resulted in the delays could not be revealed at the time of going to print, a highly placed source with ZMDC said  there had been efforts to stop the deal from progressing.

“These guys at the Ministry just want to sign the deal but we can’t agree to everything in there,” said a source familiar with the developments.

Efforts to get an official comment from ZMDC chairman Peter Chimbodza were fruitless at the time of going to print as he had not responded to questions sent on Tuesday.

Mines Minister Winston Chitando could also not be drawn to comment on the matter although he initially confirmed the deal had not yet been finalised when he was contacted yesterday morning.