Nico Muller, chief executive officer of Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., also known as Implats, speaks during a panel discussion on the second day of the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Mining executives, investors and government ministers are meeting in drought-hit Cape Town for the African Mining Indaba, the continent’s biggest gathering of one of its most vital industries. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Nico Muller, CEO, Impala Platinum

ZIMBABWE hosts Impala Platinum’s (Implats’) best operating division in the form of subsidiaries Zimplats and Mimosa Platinum and having the country seen as “risky” by other mining companies actually helps the group.

That’s the view of Implats CEO Nico Muller who told delegates at the PGMs Industry Day investment conference held in Johannesburg that Implats also received far better government support for its Zimbabwean operations than it did from the South African government for its South African mines.

“Zimbabwe has been our best jurisdiction in which to operate over the past 20 years. It’s the jurisdiction where we have had the least amount of disruptions and where we have had the most predictable production profile.

“We also have our safest operations there along with the best control over costs and our projects there are always on schedule.”

Muller added: “Personally, I am quite happy that the jurisdiction is seen as a risk by most other competitors because it allows us to continue expanding our interests in the jurisdiction”.

He also pointed to the favourable level of support and co-operation from the Zimbabwe government. Despite the country’s serious macro-economic problems  “… we have been able to navigate the foreign currency situation without a single hiccup. We have been able to extract all of our dividends declared,” he said.

Phoevos Pouroulis, CEO of Tharisa, said the Zimbabwean government had been “extremely supportive” in the firm’s efforts in launching this month its $250m Karo Platinum project. He added: “The level of skills on the Great Dyke in terms of quality of labour and work ethic is an asset to any new development in the country.”

Muller cited the example of the official opening of a “small regional hospital” built by Zimplats in the country to illustrate the level of government interest and support.

“I attended along with the CEO of Zimplats. The president of the country was there along with five ministers. That’s the way in which Zimbabwe thanks a mining company. But in South Africa, where we have opened something ten times the size, we get pelted with apples and oranges because we are not doing enough”.

Questioned on the ethics of supporting the ZANU-PF run Zimbabwe government which has been accused of committing atrocities against the local population, Muller replied: “We are very comfortable working with the Zimbabwe government.

“Our participation is always aimed at improving conditions. You are in a far more constructive position if you participate within the economy because your ability to influence things in a positive direction is strengthened. You can encourage the authorities to move in the right direction.”

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