Zim’s largest forex earner – PGMs monthly exports hit 12-year high

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Zimbabwe’s Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) exports for March 2021 scaled up 202%  year-on-year, bolstering the nation’s aggregate exports which mounted 35.5% to US$461.8 million.

The aggregate is denoted as “nickel mattes” on ZIMSTAT data- very well different from the nickel metal. Total Nickel matte exports came in at US$168.9 million in March, their highest outturn since 2009.  The surge, in turn,  helped spur exports for the month and quarter respectively.

On a month-on-month basis, nickel mattes surged 789.5% from 19 million in February while on a quarter to quarter, the aggregate jumped 20 percentage points from US$189 million in the last quarter of last year to US$228 million in the first quarter of 2021.

Effectively, Nickel mattes ranked as the top export earner for the month, followed by Gold, Nickel Ores, and Ferrochrome. The surge in Nickel mattes is against the backdrop of a global surge in Platinum, Palladium, and Rhodium prices.

Zimbabwe holds the world’s third-largest proven Platinum Group Metal (PGM) reserves after South Africa and Russia@. Platinum deposits are found alongside five other key minerals: palladium, gold, rhodium, ruthenium, and iridium and are referred to as the Platinum Group Metals (6E). Zimbabwe is the world’s third-largest platinum producer with output mounting 5% to 476 000 ounces (oz) in 2020.

As per RBZ data, PGM’s topped Zimbabwe’s export shipments for 2020, coming in at US$1.7 billion, an increase of 47% from US$1.2 billion in 2019. However, it is important to note that the PGMs aggregate is presented under the umbrella “Platinum” in RBZ’s most recent Monetary Policy document.

Zimbabwe’s current major PGMs production is linked to Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed firms Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats), and Sibanye Stillwater (Sibanye) which have interests in Zimbabwe through Impala Platinum’s Zimplats, Unki, a unit of Amplats and Mimosa

On a basic level, “matte” refers to a crude mixture of molten sulfides formed as an intermediate product of the smelting of sulfide ores of metals, especially copper, nickel, and lead.

According to the World Platinum Investment Council, Platinum demand outstripped supply by a record 932 Koz in 2020, with a third consecutive annual deficit expected in 2021. Automotive platinum demand in 2021 is forecast to increase 25% accelerated by Chinese heavy-duty vehicles and propped by industrial and jewellery demand as well.

Rhodium and Palladium prices have sky-rocketed in recent years bolstered by growing demand for a reduction in carbon emissions with Rhodium surging 180% in 2020.

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