JOHANNESBURG – Tharisa CEO Phoevos Pouroulis met Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa on January 18, as the Cyprus-based platinum and chrome mining company seeks opportunities in the country with the world’s second-biggest reserves of the metals.
Pouroulis was accompanied to the meeting in Mnangagwa’s office in Harare, the nation’s capital, by executives including Gregory Taurog, the company’s marketing and sales director, and Hans van Wyk, the operations director of subsidiary Tharisa Minerals.
The visit took place two months after Mnangagwa took over the country’s leadership from President Robert Mugabe after the military briefly took control. Mnangagwa said in an interview with Bloomberg News on the same day that one of his priorities is to end the country’s economic isolation and he frequently repeated the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business.”
“Zimbabwe is endowed with phenomenal resources and, following the appointment of the new president, we wanted to see what the environment was like and look at opportunities for investment,” Tharisa said in an emailed response to questions about the meeting. “We are continually looking for opportunities for geographic and commodity diversification.”
Phoevos Pouroulis is the son of Loucas Pouroulis, an entrepreneur who set up South African platinum-mining ventures Lefkochrysos and Eland Platinum. Eland was sold to Xstrata in 2007 for the equivalent of $1.1-billion. His brother, Adonis, is the chairperson of Petra Diamonds. South Africa has the world’s largest platinum and chrome reserves.
Loucas Pouroulis, who is the chairperson of Tharisa, has previously been linked to potential investment in Zimbabwe. In 2013 Newsday, a Harare-based newspaper, reported that he had offered to build a $4-billion platinum mine on land previously held by a subsidiary of Johannesburg-based Impala Platinum Holdings, citing a letter written to the then Zimbabwean mines minister Obert Mpofu.
Earlier, Kameni, a company linked the Pouroulis family, was involved in a dispute over a platinum concession in Zimbabwe with Anglo American Platinum Ltd. and a company known as Todal.