INTERNATIONAL - Impala Platinum has said that it now had less ground to develop its existing operations in Zimbabwe beyond their lifespan after it released 23903 hectares to the government for other industry participants.

Implats said yesterday that it released the excess ground following a long-running battle with the government over its lands.

“(The) material impact is that we have less ground to develop over time. But this ground was outside our existing 30-year mine plan and as such could assist in opening space for others to mine in Zimbabwe,” said Implats spokesperson Johan Theron.

Reports claimed the released mining ground constituted leases awarded to Karos, a venture backed by South Africa-linked entrepreneur Loucas Pouroulis.

Karos has said that it planned to build a $4.2billion (R53.2bn) mine and refinery for platinum group metals (PGMs) in Zimbabwe, capable of producing 1.2million ounces of PGMs in the next five years. Mines Minister Winston Chitando was not immediately available for comment.

Implats said its Zimbabwean unit, Zimplats, secured government security for about 24632ha in the Selous Metallurgical Complex and in Ngezi.

Implats has been involved in a long-running dispute with authorities after the government gazetted the compulsory take-over of nearly 28000ha of land owned by Zimplats during the tenure of former leader Robert Mugabe. Zimplats subsequently applied to the Administrative Court to challenge the acquisition of its land.

A mining executive yesterday said the decision to surrender the land to the government was a good gesture.

“There is the issue of indigenisation and the building of refineries, so this is a strategic move, which feeds into the company’s long-term plans and interests in terms of dealing with the Zimbabwe government,” said the executive, who declined to be named.

Zimplats said the excess land was not part of Implats’ 30-year plan for Zimbabwe.

“These mining leases replace the special mining lease held by Zimplats, which was due for renewal in August 2019,” it said. “The two mining leases issued to Zimplats’ operating subsidiary are valid for the life of the mine of Zimplats’ mining operations and secure the operating subsidiary’s mining tenure.”

Implats rose 5.44percent on the JSE yesterday to close at R21.72.