Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Impala Platinum Holdings is in talks to buy land in Zimbabwe from rival Anglo American Platinum as the world’s second-biggest producer of the precious metal seeks to boost output from the southern African country, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The purchase of the claims by the Mimosa mine, which is jointly owned by Impala and Sibanye Gold, could be finalised by the end of 2019, according to the people who asked not to be identified because the discussions are not public.

Impala and Amplats mine most of their platinum group metals in SA, which has the world’s biggest reserves of platinum. But Zimbabwe’s deposits, second only to SA’s, are shallower and therefore cheaper to mine.

Amplats’s Unki mine has two properties adjacent to Mimosa. “We are considering various options with regards to the mining of these claims,” Unki CFO Colin Chibafa said in a written response to questions. “A decision in this regard is expected soon.”

Mimosa MD Fungai Makoni confirmed that Impala was negotiating with “another entity”, but declined to give further details. “Due to contractual obligations we can’t disclose the terms and the entity at this stage until we have finalised with them,” he said in an interview.

Impala, which operates Mimosa, and Sibanye in July said they were undertaking a feasibility study at Zimbabwe’s oldest platinum mine to assess the best way to develop the remaining resource, according to GM Alex Mushonhiwa.

“Mimosa has largely mined out many of the areas near the present mining infrastructure and has advanced work to potentially access some neighbouring areas across the mine boundary,” Impala spokesperson Johan Theron said. “The most obvious way to do this would be to agree a royalty payment with the neighbouring permit holder.”

A deal made commercial sense because the land was not being mined at present, one of the people said.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in March the the Harare government would enforce its policy of confiscating mining companies’ unused permits under a so-called use-it-or-lose-it clause, as the country seeks to boost mining and stimulate economic expansion.