Zimbabwe increases pressure on miner

Impala Platinum's Zimbabwe unit Zimplats said it is in talks with the government after authorities rejected its black empowerment plan.

Zimbabwe last week gave several foreign-owned banks and mines, including Zimplats, two weeks to submit new proposals on how they would transfer majority shares to local blacks or risk losing permits. The South Africa-based Impala, the world's second largest platinum producer, owns 87 per cent of Zimplats.

Apart from Zimplats, other foreign firms given the 14-day ultimatum include Aquarius Platinum, Rio Tinto's diamond mine Murowa, British American Tobacco and local units of British banks Standard Chartered and Barclays.

Zimbabwe has the world's second-largest known platinum reserves after neighbouring South Africa and market watchers and investors are therefore keen to see how the drama unfolds against the backdrop of soaring commodity prices.

Critics say the empowerment law, which was enacted in 2008 and seeks to transfer at least 51 per cent shares in all foreign-owned firms to local blacks, threatens the country's fragile recovery. A unity government set up by President Robert Mugabe and his rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai two years ago is sharply divided over the law.

The government has also reportedly directed the Standard Bank's Zimbabwe unit to make available up to 40 per cent of its shareholding to locals.