Zimbabwe has recordeda jump in platinum and nickel output for the first quarter of the current yearafter figures released by the country's chamber of mines indicated that the twometals have now overtaken gold as Zimbabwe's major minerals earners.

Platinum outputsurged to 1,429.42 kg, a 4.6 percent increase on last year's first quarterfigure of 1,366.96 kg, despite the well-recorded problems which have afflictedthe Zimbabwe mining sector over the past years.

Officials consultedby Mineweb said the nominal increase in the metal's output is reflective of theamount of investment that has been channelled into the platinum mining sector byplayers such as Implats and more recently by Anglo Platinum, which has embarkedon a platinum extraction project at its Unki mine in the country's lushMidlands region.

Nickel recorded thebiggest production increase after the metal's output for the 2008 first quarterrose to 1,535.98 tonnes, a substantial 80.5 percent jump on the comparableperiod output of 850.98 tonnes.

These figures havebrought some good news at last about Zimbabwe's mining sector which iscurrently weathering a storm owing to the government's policies, said JohnKaumba, a resources analyst with a local bank.

There was however nogood news on the copper mining scene as the base metal recorded a slightdecline after the chamber of mines' production figures for the quarter showed thatoutput had decreased marginally to 701.46 tonnes compared to the same quarterlast year production output of 702.26 tonnes.

International demandfor platinum in the other key industrial sectors has remained high over thepast few years and, analysts say, the high demand is expected to continue.

Zimbabwe, which hasthe world's second largest platinum reserves after South Africa, has thepotential to gain immensely from the surging international metals prices butthe country continues to be shunned by more prospective investors because ofthe mining sector's uncertainty and fears of company localization by thegovernment.

Some of the existingmining sector investors have put expansionary projects and programmes on hold.

The Zimbabwe chamberof mines also revealed that the country's mineral export sales, with theexception of gold for the first four months of the current year stood at US$302million.