Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (R) and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) speak to the press in Zvimba, near Darwendale, Zimbabwe, Sept. 16, 2014. Mugabe and Lavrov on Tuesday condemned the West-led sanctions on the two countries as the leaders launched a 4-billion-U.S.-dollar joint venture which is to become the largest platinum miner in Zimbabwe. (Xinhua)
HARARE, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- Top Zimbabwean and Russian officials on Tuesday launched a joint venture platinum mine that will start producing platinum in 2017 with ultimate investment mounting to 4.8 billion U.S. dollars.
Located 70 km west of Harare, the 6,500-hectare Darwendale platinum mine is billed to become Zimbabwe's biggest platinum mine when partial development is reached in 2021 with projected annual production of 530,000 ounces, officials said.
Zimbabwe, which holds the second largest platinum reserves in the world after South Africa, is currently producing 430,000 ounces of platinum annually from three mines which are Zimplats, Unki and Mimosa.
The Darwendale mine is owned by a consortium of Zimbabwean investors operating under the name Pen East and Russian investors including VI Holdings, Rostec and Vnesheconombank. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attended the launch ceremony.
Speaking at the launch, Hesphina Rukato, the chairperson of the mining group -- Great Dyke Investments -- said the mine will be developed in three phases, with the first phase running from 2014 to 2017 entailing exploration, infrastructure development and commissioning of mining facilities.
The second phase from 2018 to 2021 will entail the establishment of a new mine and expansion of concentration capacity to produce 530,000 ounces of platinum per year. The third and full development phase will run from 2022 to 2024 and will see the expansion of platinum production to 800,000 ounces per year.
Rukato said the cost of the project for mining and establishment of a smelter is 3 billion U.S. dollars but will rise to 4.8 billion U.S. dollars after the establishment of a refinery between 2022 and 2024. The mining project will create 2,000 jobs in the first phase and a minimum of 5,000 in each of the two other phases.
Rukato explained that exploration work for the project started in 2006 but was suspended after encountering financial difficulties. New investors who came in 2013 resuscitated the project.
Speaking at the same occasion, Zimbabwean Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa said the project will start adding 250,000 ounces to Zimbabwe's total platinum production in 2017.
He said with four more platinum concessions, Zimbabwe could easily reach 1 million platinum ounces per year in the next five years if these four were fully developed.