GREAT Dyke Investments (GDI), which is developing the US$2,5 billion platinum project in Darwendale, says the future of the platinum sector is bright despite the proposal by the world market to ban conventional vehicles.
Platinum is a metal principally used in the production of catalytic converter components that fit into the front part of the exhaust system of a conventional vehicle, close to the engine to reduce the emission of gaseous pollutants like carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.
However, the world market particularly Europe and other parts of the world such as Asia, specifically countries like India and China are shifting towards promoting the use of electric vehicles, eliminating conventional motor vehicles that burn petrol and diesel polluting the environment.
The GDI platinum operation will have a plant capacity of processing 3,5 million tonnes of ore per annum.
GDI is a member of Kuvimba Mining House (KMH), a State-owned company with vast interest in gold, nickel, lithium, chrome and platinum that was established few years back to buttress Zimbabwe’s development agenda.
This is through the resuscitation and development of mines or industrial operations considered of national strategic importance.
Briefing journalists before a recent tour of the GDI platinum project last week, KMH group technical director Engineer Munashe Shava who is also GDI chief operating officer said: “Technology is evolving and uses for current minerals is also evolving and platinum the majority use has always been automobiles as a component in the catalytic converters.
“And with this drive now where diesel-powered vehicles are being phased out, it’s obviously a direct impact on the platinum.
“But platinum has always been because of its properties. It has got wider applications, one of which is in the medical field, the jewellery and a lot of work has been done in the hydrogen business.”
In the medical field, platinum compounds are important chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancers while in the dental fraternity, platinum is used as an alloying agent for various types of dental equipment.
Shava said in this context, the platinum market abounds with no signs of the mineral’s uses facing extinction.
Platinum ore whose processing sees the extraction of a range of Platinum Group Metal (PGM) like palladium, gold, rhodium, nickel and copper is also used in the electronics industry to manufacture computer hard disks and thermocouples.
“It has found a very big market there (medical and jewelry sectors) so, I don’t see us waking up one morning and there is no use for platinum.
“Platinum is going to be in use and as we speak, actually we are past prototype stages in the development of applications (hydrogen and medical facilities) so we still have use for our platinum,” said Shava.
The Darwendale platinum project was initially being developed under a 50/50 joint venture partnership between Zimbabwe’s Landela Mining Venture (Pvt) Ltd and Russia’s Vi Holdings before the foreign partners exited the deal due to geopolitics in Eastern Europe where Russia and Ukraine are in conflict.
After the exit of the Russian partners, KMH now controls 100 percent shareholding.
The local mining group is mobilising over US$50 million needed to kick-start mining operations at the platinum venture before the end of this year.
In the long-term, the GDI project that sits on a concession covering a total of an estimated 6 700 hectares requires US$500 million.
KMH is largely using internal resources to fund its acquisitions and the Government has supported the entity by funding some of its operations while local banks have also been pivotal in financing the firm’s operations.