WORK on the billion dollar platinum project at Darwendale, signed by the Government and Russians late last year, has started in earnest, with various sectors of the economy expected to benefit immensely from the development.

Zimbabwean firm, Pen East Investments and Russia’s, JCS Afronet commissioned a US$3 billion platinum mining project, the biggest joint venture deal Government has ever entered with a foreign investor since independence.

The joint-venture, Great Dyke Investments (GDI), will produce at least one million ounces of platinum annually.

GDI board chairperson, Dr Hesphina Rukato, said it was all systems go at the project that was expected to create not less than 15 000 jobs in the next decade when the firm starts operating full throttle.

“In accordance with the long-term project implementation strategy adopted by the Board of Directors of Great Dyke Investments (Private) Limited, large- scale exploration works of the Darwendale deposit started on January 5, 2015,” she said.

“The total scope of drilling planned for 2015-2016 exceeds 300 thousand running metres, thus being one of the biggest exploration ventures in Zimbabwe.

“This scope of work is designed to prove the deposit resources in indicated category for longer than a 20-year mining period.”

She said a consortium of Zimbabwean companies — Tandamanzi and SMC — were taking part in the implementation of the drilling programme.

“The Darwendale deposit resources have been estimated at 40 million ounces of PGMs (Platinum Group Metals). It is part of the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe and is ranked among the world’s biggest PGMs deposits.

“The project development strategy will see a phased construction of a complex for mining and concentration of 10 million tonnes of ore per annum, and a smelter to enable production of up to 800 thousand ounces (25 tonnes) of PGMs in the form of converter matter as final product,” said Dr Rukato.

She expressed gratitude to stakeholders who have facilitated successful implementation of the project according to the plan.

Russians have already secured funding for the project, whose investment is expected to reach at least US$4,2 billion over the next decade.

The integrated project will also see GDI set up a refinery to promote value addition in line with Zim-Asset.

The project would be implemented in three phases with the first one running from 2014 – 2017, where exploration and infrastructure establishment as well as construction and commissioning of the first stage of facilities for mining would be carried out.

During the second phase (2018-2022) construction and commissioning of two underground mines would take place while the last phase (2022-2024) would see construction of a second processing plant and additional mines.

Zimbabwe also entered several mega-deals with China with Harare and Beijing putting pen to paper during President Mugabe’s state visit to China last year.

Zimbabwean and Chinese delegations have since exchanged several visits.

A high-powered Chinese delegation led by Deputy Premier Yang Jiech is expected in the country to discuss the implementation of the mega deals.