High carbon ferrochrome production has jumped 14 percent up to about 172 000 tonnes in the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year as the chrome industry and its sub-sector adjust to Government’s drive to beneficiation.
Government has been pushing for mineral beneficiation as part of efforts to widen the mining sector’s contribution to the fiscus.
The mining sector has been set a target to grow its annual export earnings from US$3, 2 attained last year to at least US$12 billion annually by 2023 and chrome, together with other key minerals like platinum, diamonds and gold is expected to play a critical role to this end.
But for chrome to play a more central role, Government has noted that players need to scale down on exporting concentrates and lumpy chrome but focus mainly on beneficiated high carbon ferrochrome.
Statistics availed to this publication by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, show that the first six months of this year saw the country’s ferrochrome producers managing 171 988 tonnes compared to 151 107 tonnes last year.
Statistics at the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development also show that most of the ferrochrome production in Zimbabwe is largely low grade high carbon ferrochrome with typical chromium content of 52 to 60 percent.
Explaining a 35 percent jump in exports in the first four months of the year compared to the same period last year, Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura, told this publication in June that increasing ferrochrome production was a result of engagements with chrome sector players that saw Government parking a proposed two percent beneficiation penalty.
“I am sure you are aware that initially as Government we had introduced a two percent beneficiation penalty tax for all the chrome that was being exported as concentrates or lumpy, but the miners came to us and asked that we suspend the penalty,” the Deputy Minister told this publication in June.
“Their reasoning was that they wanted to capitalise on profits so that they can then build base metal refineries and we agreed to this on condition that in the meantime they have to show serious commitment to beneficiation.
“So what you are seeing are the results of that engagement and the President’s call to beneficiation and going forward you will see even more of it,” he said.
With approximately 12 percent of the global chromite resources, Zimbabwe has the world’s second largest chrome ore deposits, at about 900 million tonnes of untapped ore against world reserves that are estimated to be about 7, 5 billion tonnes.
Only South Africa has more chrome ore resources than Zimbabwe.
However, the country’s production figures are way off potential and the new dispensation is seeking to rump up production to full potential.
In 2018 Zimbabwe contributed about 2, 5 percent of global ferrochrome and about 4 percent of global chrome ore output.
International chrome players have also responded positively to Government’s call to open up the country to business under the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra being championed by President Mnangagwa.
In May this year, they brought the 35th edition of the International Chromium Development Association (ICDA) annual conference to Victoria Falls, itself a sign the sector has its eyes on Zimbabwe.