Patrice Motsepe targets Zimbabwe

[] — AFRICAN Rainbow Minerals (ARM) is looking closely at investing in platinum projects in Zimbabwe as a strategic priority.

This emerged at Monday’s ARM interim results briefing to investors, after chairman Patrice Motsepe warmly greeted the Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa during his introductory remarks from the podium.

Motsepe told the ambassador: “Zimbabwe is a country we are focused on. I am confident that we will invest significantly in your country.’

Asked by Miningmx to elaborate on that statement at question time, Motsepe said ARM was looking at platinum projects but refused to give specifics.

He said one of the reasons he could not do so was because ARM had to make be sure the group complied with all legal and ethical requirements concerning whatever assets it picked up.

He said: “I think we have a duty as South Africans to help Zimbabwe become a globally competitive country, and we have to encourage Zimbabwe to build an environment that is good for business.

“We are much more effective at achieving such things when we engage behind closed doors instead of making pronouncements in public condemning various people.

“I also have a huge responsibility to my shareholders that their interests will not be compromised by whatever we do in Zimbabwe.’

ARM CEO Dan Simelane told Miningmx that ARM had registered a company in Zimbabwe to look at platinum group metals (PGM) and coal projects.

He said: “We have been in discussions with the Ministry of Mines and the Zimbabwe Minerals Development Corporation (ZMDC). We have filed various applications for mineral rights. I cannot be more specific at this stage.’

Sources indicate ARM is after the ground given up by Impala Platinum (Implats) subsidiary Zimplats in 2006 as an initial step in complying with Zimbabwe’s draft indigenisation proposals.

The sources say that ground was split into three, with a third going to a Russian company, a third to a Chinese company and the ZMDC retaining the last portion for use by small miners.

Suggestion is the Zimbabwe government has not been happy with the slow progress so far by the Russians and Chinese in developing the ground allocated to them.

But there is further speculation that ARM may also be interested in the ground Anglo Platinum gave up from its Unki Platinum project, subsequently awarded to the former Central African Mining and Exploration company (Camec) under controversial circumstances.

Camec was taken over last year by Kazakh resource heavyweight Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC).

Allegations were made early in 2008 that Anglo American executives in Zimbabwe had come under severe political coercion to surrender portions of the Unki project.

As part of the deal to acquire the Unki rights given up by Anglo Platinum, Camec agreed to lend $100m to the Zimbabwe government.

It was alleged that the money was used to fund President Robert Mugabe’s election campaign against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

It is understood that ARM had been a keen contender at the time to acquire the ground that went to Camec.

On July 18 2008 MDC treasurer-general Roy Bennett told Miningmx that if the MDC gained power in Zimbabwe, “any deal done under the kind of circumstances surrounding the Camec acquisition of those mineral rights will not be honoured and will be undone’.

Then Camec MD Andrew Groves replied: “Let them try. That deal was done in accordance with the all the laws of Zimbabwe.

“The $100m loan provided was used to pay off Zimbabwe’s external creditors. They will find the deal very difficult to undo and we will take the issue to international arbitration if necessary.’