Impala Platinum faces potential halt to Zimplats operations due to differences with Zimbabwe's government

Zimbabwe's central bank threatened to freeze Impala Platinum's local account and ordered local banks to halt managing any of the company’s exports because it has “failed to comply with an order to bank locally,” state-controlled newspaper The Herald reports.

Zimplats, a unit of Johannesburg-listed Impala Platinum, the world’s second-biggest platinum producer, argues the ruling was redundant because the company had already complied with the instructions:

“Zimplats acknowledges receipt of the [Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)] directive. However, we must say we were surprised because in reality Zimplats had no objection to the initial communication from the RBZ. To this end, the company is now paying for 75% of its expenditure in Zimbabwe. The remaining 25% related to observing the tenets of its foreign loans that were raised with the knowledge, support and approval of the monetary authorities. Zimplats is urgently liaising with the Monetary Authorities to resolve this matter amicably,” spokeswoman Busi Chindove said.

In January, the Zimbabwe government hiked exploration fees by up to 8,000% in a bid to curb speculative holding of mining titles.

In March, the country’s leaders resolved to compel all mining companies to bank locally, claiming that hundreds of millions of dollars were trapped offshore, but central bank governor Gideon Gono insisted Zimplats was resisting the decree.

Mineral-rich Zimbabwe has the world's second largest known platinum reserves after neighbouring South Africa and foreign miners working there also include global mining giant Rio Tinto and Anglo Platinum.

Zimplats reported a 170% jump in third-quarter profit at the end of April, driven by higher platinum prices.  January to March 2012 operating profit rose to $52 million from $19 million the previous quarter. Revenue, at $128 million, was 32% higher than the last quarter.