File photo: Supplied

Harare - Zimbabwean Mines Minister Walter Chidakwa said he held "interesting discussions" with Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. Chairman Khotso Mokhele on building a base-metal refinery in the country.

"They have got ideas which we are beginning to consider as well," Chidakwa told reporters in Harare today, without commenting further.

Zimbabwe wants the world's biggest platinum producers to build a refinery to help kick-start the recovery of its economy, which contracted by 40 percent between 2000 and 2008. Units of companies including Impala and Anglo American Platinum Ltd. would be compelled to send their ore to the plants, according to a Jan. 3 letter to producers.

The country is the largest holder after South Africa of reserves of the metal, used for catalytic converters that reduce emissions from vehicles, and in jewelry.

Impala's Zimplats unit, the country's top producer, submitted proposals to the government that remain under discussion, Johan Theron, a spokesman for the Johannesburg-based company, said today by phone. The plans would be made public if they lead to an agreement, he said.

"Our discussions definitely are constructive," he said.