Four-fifths of the world’s known platinum lies under South Africa. The country’s platinum mines were at the center of last year’s strikes by mine workers, and its broader mining industry is going through some turmoil. Anglo American Platinum, more usually known as Amplats, the world’s top platinum producer, is planning to mothball two unprofitable shafts and sell off another mine.
Yet China Development Bank is backing one of the few new platinum mines there, extending a cheap $650 million loan late last month to Wesizwe Platinum’s Bakubung mine which is due to start production in 2018. In what is thought to have been the first Chinese investment in the sector, the mining group Jinchuan has taken a 45% stake in Wesizwe.
Jinchuan is best known as a nickel, copper and cobalt producer though it is also China’s leading platinum producer. However, it has taken a different tack with Wesizwe than it did with its acquisition of South African copper and cobalt miner Metorex. That it bought outright and delisted. With Wesizwe, it has gone the route of being a minority partner. Platinum mining is such a specialized business. There is not much expertise outside South Africa. Jinchuan has a slogan, “We gather the Valuables, The Country and People will Prosper.” The valuables here are platinum mining engineers as much as the metal itself.