HARARE — Zimbabwe has ratcheted up the pressure on South African platinum mining companies to vendor finance their empowerment proposals.
On Friday Impala Platinum said that Mimosa — its Zimbabwean joint venture with Aquarius Platinum — had concluded an agreement to transfer 51% to black Zimbabwean groups.
Mimosa and Zimplats, which had to submit a revised compliance plan, will now provide funding for the acquisition of shares in the two platinum mining operations by local groups.
Government officials in Zimbabwe have insisted there are "no sacred cows that will be spared the indigenisation rod". Zimbabwean Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has said the new plan submitted by Zimplats will likely be given the nod this week.
"We are pleased that the Zimplats deal is almost sealed. We are hopeful that it will be a done deal (this week)," he said.
Mining sector officials in Zimbabwe told Business Day on Monday that the government had apparently told the two mining companies they had to vendor finance their proposals or risk their operations being taken over by the government.
"There had been so much pressure on the platinum mining companies and following resolutions passed at the Zanu (PF) conference earlier this month to intensify pressure on the companies, Zimplats and Mimosa just had to comply," said one mining executive who did not want to be named. "Remember elections are around the corner and this law is being used to lure votes."
There was no immediate comment from Zimplats regarding the deal expected to be concluded this week. Last week, Zimplats denied allegations that it was delaying compliance with the law and reiterated that it was committed to do so.
Analysts said on Monday that Aquarius had agreed to comply and to make available funding for the acquisition of shares in Mimosa following an earlier empowerment deal between Anglo Platinum’s Unki mine and the government. They said there was now no option for the mining companies but to comply.
"Just about all the big guns have now complied and it will be easy for Kasukuwere and the government to nudge the other companies to comply," analyst Johannes Kwangwari said.
"If you look at it, Zimplats was the first to comply although there were always going to be problems regarding payment for the shares, but now all the major mining companies have moved to fully comply and there is substance in their agreements," Mr Kwangwari said.
It has emerged, however, that the deal signed between Mimosa and the government will see the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) pay up a debt owed to Mimosa by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
"The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has a $57m debt with Mimosa, but we have managed to clear this debt through this deal. NIEEB will take over the debt as part of their shareholding in Mimosa and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will not have to repay Mimosa, but strike an arrangement through NIEEB," Mr Kasukuwere said.
Aquarius Platinum CEO Jean Nel said on Friday that compliance with the empowerment law would "offer Mimosa security of tenure". He said Mimosa had committed to complying with the Zimbabwean law as a "true reflection of the worth of our investment in Mimosa", which he described as a valuable asset.
Under the agreement Mimosa will cede 51% ownership to indigenous Zimbabwean groups for $550m. This has been calculated at an "agreed" market value of $1.078bn for the Mimosa mine.
Mimosa appears to have broken with tradition after clearly stipulating in its plan that future funding for the mine’s operations and capitalisation, where necessary, would be provided by all shareholders, including the indigenous Zimbabwean groups empowered under the transaction.
"To the extent that shareholders cannot or do not comply with their funding obligations, Mimosa Investments may fund any shortfall, which may lead to dilution," it said.
Mimosa will cede 10% to the Zvishavane Community Share Ownership Trust, which is held by communities in the area around which the mine operates. Another 10% will be ceded to the Mimosa employee share ownership trust. The company will also give up 31% of its shareholding to the NIEEB.