Platinumb

Patrick Bond pbond at SPAMwn.apc.org
Mon Aug 2 01:06:37 MDT 1999



My Harare sources claim that because of Europe's imminent move to a
tighter auto emissions policy, and the need for more platinum in
improved catalytic converters, the economic viability of Hartley may
yet change. Another inhibiting feature for BHP was the extent to
which corrupt Zimbabwe officials have allegedly put a squeeze on
foreign mining concerns, not for the good of the country's
development but rather to line their personal pockets.

Interestingly, the former head of the mineworkers' union, Morgan
Tsvangirai, is about to launch a workers' party (Movement for
Democratic Change) which by all accounts could very well beat Robert
Mugabe's Zanu nationalists in next April's parliamentary elections.
(And yesterday, former Namibian trade unionist--and Robben Island
detainee--Ben Ilunga launched a similar progressive party to try to
unseat the ghastly nationalist Sam Nujoma in next year's
presidential race.)

If anyone wants a broader critique of the reliance of Southern
African countries on that absurd "dutch-disease" extraction
process now termed the minerals-energy-complex, you can't do better
than Ben Fine and Zav Rustomjee's The Political Economy of South
Africa (London, Hirst and Johannesburg, Wits Press, 1996), which has
a very subtle marxian undertone and which represents one of the
finest case studies of state-capital relations yet constructed.

> From:          "ulhas joglekar" <ulhasj at bom4.vsnl.net.in>
>             Platinumb
>             ZIMBABWE'S platinum deposits, the world's largest, may never be
>             fully exploited due to poor geology, as yet unmastered by the
>             world's best mining firms, analysts say. The deposits, estimated
>             bigger than S Africa's, claimed their largest victim yet,
>             Australia's Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP), which closed its Hartley
>             Platinum Mine last month after toiling for three years and raking
>             US$545 mn in losses.
>             But analysts say the nascent industry, although severely jolted by
>             the closure of Hartley, has the expertise and resources to survive
>             and suggest Hartley's size may have been its archilles.
>             Innovative mining methods may be needed to viably extract resources
>             from the mineral rich Great Dyke, a layered igneous structure that
>             truncates Zimbabwe through the centre for 550 kilometres and is up
>             to 11 km wide. ``The closure of Hartley has made a big dent on the
>             future of platinum mining in this country,'' says Peter Simpson, a
>             director with mining consultants, Peacock Simpson Associates.
>             ``The problem with BHP was that the huge capital investment and
>             production could not match the throughput required. If someone takes
>             over with a zero debt burden, I am sure there must be a way it can
>             be operated profitably,'' Simpson said.
>             But others are not so sure. ``The nature of the Great Dyke means
>             that its values are found in narrow zones on shallow dips,
>             preventing the use of gravity to simplify mining and increase its
>             scale of operation,'' mining consultant John Hollaway, wrote
>             recently in an industry journal. ``The Great Dyke may be a world
>             class resource, but it does not allow the development of world class
>             mines," Hollaway said.
>             At Hartley, BHP used labour intensive underground mining while Anglo
>             American Corporation's local subsidiary, which is considering
>             developing its Unki claims, proposes using innovative systems such
>             as diamond-coated cutting wires. Australia's Zimplats which bought
>             Hartley, plans open cast mining at its Ngezi mine.
>             Hartley, Zimbabwe's single largest mining investment since
>             independence in 1980, was shut _ the government says temporarily _
>             on June 2, after BHP concluded it was unprofitable and unsafe.
>             However, both officials and analysts say there is great enthusiasm
>             to find a way past the geological challenges posed by the nature of
>             the ground on the Great Dyke.
>             The Zimbabwe Mining and Smelting Company, a local firm producing
>             platinum, albeit at a lower scale at its Mimosa Mine, recently said
>             it was looking for a partner to expand production.
>             Australia's Delta Gold which bought Hartley through Zimplats for a
>             nominal US$3 million is also looking to develop its huge claims at
>             Ngezi as well as seeking to revive Hartley. Added to that are
>             numerous small-scale mining units dotted on the Great Dyke ridge.
>             ``We are confident that the platinum business will grow. The future
>             is there. Perhaps what is required is that the government give the
>             facilities that mining companies are asking,'' Chamber of Mines
>             Chief Executive David Murangari told Reuters.
>             BHP said unstable ground conditions resulted in safety problems
>             which led to loss of reserves and dilution of the ore compared to
>             those found following studies.
>             The studies had shown that the Hartley complex contained over 200
>             million ounces of platinum-group metals as well as quantities of
>             associated nickel, copper, gold and cobalt, which for now, appear
>             destined to stay in the ground.
>             Reuters









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