The Zimbabwean Government will sign a deal next month with a Russian consortium to develop a $1.6bn platinum mine at Darwendale in the country, Zimbabwean mines minister Walter Chidakwa has said.
The consortium includes Russia's VI Holding and state defence conglomerate Rostec and Vneseconombank, which will soon confirm their participation in the project.
Speaking in an interview, Chidakwa was quoted by Bloomberg as saying: "The project will naturally involve mining, putting up concentrators to concentrate the ore and they will then put up a smelter, a PGM smelter."
The first phase of the mine, which excludes the smelter, will be constructed with an investment of $400m to $500m.
With plans to start operations in early 2015, the mine will initially function as an open pit mine for two to three years.
The Darwendale platinum field has reserves of 19t of platinum and 755t of platinum group metals, including palladium, rhodium, gold, nickel and copper. It has the capacity to produce 600,000oz of platinum a year.
Ruschrome Mining, a joint venture between Russia and Zimbabwe, has the license to develop the Darwendale mine. The Center of Business Cooperation with Foreign Countries and the Zimbabwean Government have equal stakes in the mine.
However, Chidakwa told the news agency that: "The refinery is something we are in the process of determining, because there is a mistake in thinking we have awarded the Russians the rights.
"The job to do the base metal refinery and precious metal refinery, that part is still to be decided and we are in the process of finalising that aspect, but the mining aspect, including a smelter, we have finalised and very soon in September we will be signing the agreement."
In June, Kommersant newspaper reported that the Russian partners may invest $3bn in the Darwendale mine.
Image: The Darwendale platinum mine in Zimbabwe. Photo: courtesy of Rostec.