There aren’t a lot of platinum opportunities globally. With 90% of production coming from just three countries.
But one of those “big three” nations might have some prospects opening up. After a move from the government to seize prime platinum lands from one of the world’s largest mining companies.
That’s Zimbabwe — the world’s third-largest platinum mining nation (after South Africa and Russia). Where officials filed notice this past week they intend to repossess a big chunk of acreage from platinum major Zimplats.
The Zimbabwe Government Gazette noted Friday that the country plans to take back 27,948 hectares of mining leases currently held by Zimplats. With the paper giving 30 days for filing of comments on the planned repossession.
Legally, there’s little grounds for the move. With Zimplats holding a 25-year mining lease on the property, granted in 1994 — and the overall project having been developed into a full-scale mining operation.
But Zimbabwe’s government says the ground isn’t being utilized to its full potential. And is thus taking back the undeveloped portion under a “use or lose it” policy that’s been in the works since 2013 — and was used last year to take back 42,000 hectares from the country’s two largest ferrochrome producers.
This is of course a troubling development for miners. Who normally keep an inventory of undeveloped acreage adjacent to operating mines — to facilitate brownfields exploration and add reserves to extend mine lives.
But Zimbabwe clearly wants to throw out this usual playbook. And fast-forward development of those near-mine resources — likely by awarding the repossessed acreage to a different development company.
While that’s bad for Zimplats, it will be an opportunity for incoming firms. Those are unlikely to be Western companies given all the red flags going up in Zimbabwe’s mining sector — but could be a Chinese or Russian miner, both those nations already having significant operations in the country.
Watch later this quarter to see if the repossession goes ahead as planned. And throughout the rest of the year to see who this prime platinum ground goes to.