The Sunday Mail
Karo Resources, which is setting up a major platinum mine in Mhondoro-Ngezi, says its estimate of 15 000 direct jobs from the venture could be conservative considering the scope of the project.
Karo Platinum expects to produce 14,4 million tonnes of ore in the next five years, which is double the seven million tonnes Zimplats — presently Zimbabwe’s biggest platinum miner — dug last year.
It also intends to build a platinum refinery in the next six years.
Karo Holdings, which signed an agreement with Government on March 22 this year, is the parent firm of Karo Platinum, Karo Coal Mines, Karo Power Generation and Karo Refining, which have committed to invest $4,2 billion in Zimbabwe.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail last week, Karo Resources country manager Dr Josephat Zimba said its projected employment figures could actually be conservative.
“One has to appreciate the scale of this project. When this mine is in full operation, it will be bigger than all the platinum mines that are operating at present moment. In other words, you can add the employment at Zimplats, Mimosa and Unki to come up with the scale of what this project will entail,” said Dr Zimba.
“These jobs will be created as the project goes along. It is not jobs that will be created on day one, but as the project grows. The number of 15 000 for a project of this magnitude is not out of line at all because this project has multiple facets.
“We are looking at the smelters, the base metal refinery, the precious metal refinery and the power plant. When you take all these projects in sum, you can easily get 15 000; and in truth, the figure could actually go beyond 15 000 because of the scale of the project.
“The other 75 000 jobs that we have spoken about are in the downstream because it is commonly accepted that every single job you create in the main industry will translate to five other jobs downstream.”
Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando said Karo would make Zimbabwe a significant producer of platinum group metals.
“As this project is implemented, the impact on the Zimbabwean economy is massive. 2020 will see the first portal, the first stage of the platinum project being implemented. The mining will be implemented over a four-year period, four different mines being opened to a peak of 14,4 million tonnes per annum by 2023.
“With that, Zimbabwe’s mining space will never be the same again. Zimbabwe will become a much more significant producer of PGMs. More important is the fact that the whole project envisages the commissioning of base and precious metal refining in 2024, further reinforcing Government’s ambition for value addition,” he said.
Karo Resources chairperson Mr Loucas Pouroulis said the company’s project “is one of the largest investments ever made in the history of Zimbabwe,” adding that “this strategic investment will open the gateway for further diversified investment and development of the Zimbabwean economy”.
Geologists have reached ore-bearing rocks at depths of 50m compared to 1 000m in South Africa.
So bullish are investors that Tharisa Plc — which is listed on Johannesburg and London stock exchanges — said on June 13 that it had taken a 26,8 percent stake in Karo Holdings.
In an interview last week, Tharisa chief operating officer Ms Michelle Taylor said: “We have a roadmap in terms of how we anticipate that we will do, and we will follow it correctly. The $8 million has been approved by our board for the initial investment required for the operation.
“Tharisa is the single biggest producer of chrome in the world. This is not new for the group, the experience and the capacity is there.
“We took Tharisa from a greenfield project similar to where we are today. We had a bankable feasibility study, we raised capital through equity investment and project financing from the banks. We have been successful before and we have built a significant project at the Tharisa site.
“This year, we will mine 5 million tonnes of reef, 150 000 ounces of platinum and we will do approximately 1,4 million tonnes of chrome. By 2020, Tharisa will expand to 200 000 tonnes of platinum and two million tonnes of chrome.
“So, exactly the model that we have in South Africa we will replicate in Zimbabwe. We will do it step-by-step to take the project to the next level.”
In addition to exploiting rich platinum deposits, the project will consist of a chrome mine, a coal mine, a power plant, a smelter and refinery for beneficiation.