Government is tightening rules and regulations controlling the administration of Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) with a view to expedite the discovery of new commercially viable mineral deposits and freeing up potential mining titles that are being speculatively held by unproductive exploration orders.
The need to upscale activities on the EPO front, is part of Government efforts to stimulate production in the mining sector as it is one of the key pillars expected to anchor the attainment of an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, together with the mining affairs board, are currently saddled by legacy EPO applications as well as non-productive ones.
As part of efforts to foster growth in this lucrative sector, Government has also resolved to factor in the “use it or lose it” principle in the renewal of already existing EPOs so that those that fail to meet deliverables to which they committed themselves to, would lose the exclusive access.
“The mining affairs (board) and the Ministry of Mines are working frantically to review all the EPOs,” Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando said in an interview with The Business Weekly recently.
“For the existing EPOs, those which are in place, we would want to ensure that a major condition of renewal will be those meeting the targets they set themselves to achieve at the time of granting because we don’t want people simply holding to EPOs just forever.
“There are a lot of (EPOs) applications, which have been in place and the ministry is busy processing these applications, some will be approved but they are quite a few that will be rejected because they don’t meet the criteria,” he revealed.
On the renewal criteria, Minister Chitando said Government will be guided by the Mines and Minerals Act, which stipulates that an applicant must show technical and financial capacity to undertake the exploration project for them to get an order.
The Act also stipulates that the applicant should clearly state a time-frame of the exploration programme and this is meant to dissuade speculative land grabbing.
He said the Ministry has set itself a target to clear all outstanding applications, most of them legacy applications by June with those that would have been successful expected to immediately go on the ground.
“I must emphasise that we need EPOs to be able to discover new minerals for the future, at the moment we are mining what we already know, but there is a lot which we don’t know, so we need EPOs,” said Minister Chitando.
The need to free up potentially viable mining titles from the grip of speculators will sit well with small-scale miners most of whom have been complaining that they are being crowded out of mineral rich areas by speculators who are not using the land.
While some big companies may find mineral potential on the back of exploration, they may tend to opt against pursuing conglomerate mining operation but the results thereof can be used to undertake small scale mining operations.
This is so as some deposits are more amenable to small scale operations than conglomerate mining. Economic Minerals in Zimbabwe — as provided by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development
Gold mining and exploration in Zimbabwe has been going on from ancient times and it is estimated that a third (about 700 tonnes) of all historical gold production was mined locally from the seventh century until the introduction of mechanised mining methods with the arrival of Europeans over 100 years ago. There are over 4 000 recorded gold deposits, nearly all of them located on ancient workings.
The occurrence of gold in Zimbabwe is mainly confined to hydrothermal vein and shear zone deposits found exclusively in rocks of the Basement Complex age formed 2 400 million years or more ago.
The only noteworthy production from outside the Zimbabwe craton has been Renco Mine, which is in ancient deformed, high-grade metamorphic rocks of the Archean age North Marginal Zone of the Limpopo Mobile Belt and a number of mines in the Proterozoic Piriwiri Group of metamorphosed argillaceous sedimentary rocks with minor volcanics.
Some gold is also recovered as a by-product from copper deposits in the Deweras Group Sediments. The production of alluvial gold, present along all the major rivers draining the greenstone belts has largely been the domain of illegal gold panners.
It occurs as native silver in association with other minerals such as gold, copper and lead. With exception of the Osage Mine in Zimbabwe, it is declared as a by product from the mining of platinum, gold and copper. Gold mines in the Odzi greenstone belt have the highest silver and gold ratios.
Platinum group elements
Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) consist of platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium and have a high demand worldwide because of their wide variety of uses in industry.
Zimbabwe’s Great Dyke, a linear early Proterozoic layered mafic-ultramafic intrusion trending over 550km at a maximum width of about 11 kilometres, has the second largest platinum reserves in the world after the Bushveld Complex in South Africa.
An estimate of 2,8 billion tonnes PGM ore at 4g/t are estimated to lounge on the Dyke. Notably, PGMs are mined as primary metals only in the Bushveld in South Africa and along the Great Dyke in Zimbabwe. The occurrence of Platinum Group Elements mineralisation in the Great Dyke, was recorded in the early 1920s.
Following these documentations and the discovery of PGMs in the Merensky Reef of the Bushveld Complex of South Africa, there was a boom in PGM prospecting between 1925 and 1926 that resulted in the discovery of Wedza Mine. Since the 1950s, several companies have undertaken exploration. Currently, platinum exploration on the Great Dyke has been carried out by CAMEC (Todal Mining) in the Bougai section in Shurugwi, and Global Platinum Resources in Chegutu.
Mining is currently being carried out at Mimosa, Ngezi and Unki Platinum Mines. Mining operations ceased at Hartley Platinum Mine in 2000, because of bad ground conditions.
Demand for PGMs has seen an increase in exploration and evaluation of Zimbabwe’s platinum deposits. Off the Great Dyke, the potential for PGM mineralisation exists in the following areas; Mashava Igneous Suite and Bubi Greenstone Belt.
Zimbabwe is located within an exceptionally rich diamondiferous metallogenic province. Large areas of the country are covered by the Archaean Craton and the Archaean Limpopo Belt, which are likely to have the best developed mantle root and diamond potential along with discoveries of the mineralised kimberlites on the Craton (Murowa, Sese, Colossus) and on the Limpopo Belt (River Ranch), which make Zimbabwe an excellent exploration target with potential for economic kimberlites.
The diamond exploration success in the neighbouring Botswana and South Africa, the greatest producers of gem quality diamonds has made a positive impact on the diamond prospectively of the country.
More than 120 kimberlites have been discovered but economic grades occur in two deposits — the River Ranch and the Murowa Diamond Mines.
Currently, evaluation is being carried out on several kimberlites in the southern area of the country while some were found to be non-commercial. Of late, the discovery of diamondiferous Proterozoic conglomerates in the Umkondo basin, has led to the opening of several diamond mines within the Chiadzwa area.
Zimbabwe has the 2nd largest high grade chromium ores in the world after South Africa with reserves of approximately 10 billion tonnes. Chrome is mainly mined along the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe and occurs as seam/strati form deposits. In greenstone belts off the dyke it occurs as podiform structures in serpentinites, eg in Zimasco Mine on Shurugwi Mashava.
In Mashava, chrome is found in greenstone remnants in the Limpopo mobile belt south of Mberengwa. Chrome also occurs as alluvial deposits in the greenstone areas, Giant crystals of up to 1,5m have been found on the dyke. Chrome is mainly used in stainless steel production, as a metal coat, in the chemical industry and in metallurgical processes.
Zimbabwe has vast high grade coal deposits occurring as fossilised carbon. It occurs in lower Karoo sediments. These are the middle Zambezi basin to the north and save Limpopo basin in the south of the country hosts about 12 billion tonnes of good quality coal. About 29 coal localities are known but major producers are Hwange Colliery and Makomo Resources. The country’s full potential is, however, yet to be exploited.
In Zimbabwe, nickel occurs within the Archean craton in rocks of komatitic composition eg at Trojan Mine. It also appears layered/unlayered mafic-ultramafic intrusive bodies eg Empress, Madziwa Great Dyke. It’s also found in nickel laterite eg northern part Great Dyke hydrothermal shear zone deposits. There are nickel deposits in several serpentinite areas in greenstone belts with igneous complexes around the country.
The country has got huge potential in komatiite and laterite and more than 30 nickel deposits are known. Currently production is at Trojan Mine in Bindura.
Asbestos occurs as chrysotile. It’s found in ultramafic complexes for example, Mashava Igneous Complex, in massive serpentinites and slip fibre zones in which shears are filled with matted fibres in the Great Dyke for example Ethel Mine.
There are 60 deposits scattered in the Masvingo, Insiza, Gwanda, Mberengwa, and Shurugwi, which have been worked on for chrysotile. Zimbabwe was once the world’s 3rd largest producer of asbestos before the demand declined. After gold, asbestos was once largest income producer in the mining sector. Production ceased with the closure of Gaths Mine and Shabani Mine.
Coal bed methane
Coal bed methane is a gas intrinsically associated with coal. Coal is both a source and reservoir for methane gas occurrence in Zimbabwe. It mainly occurs in the middle Zambezi Basin for example in Lupane concession.
It’s also found in the Save Limpopo basin — Save Runde District. Reserve is a resources still under studies to ascertain if the gas could be exploited commercially which not been concluded. Coal bed methane is used for electricity generation, ammonia production for fertiliser and in iron production.
There are over 70 known deposits in Zimbabwe that have produced copper either as a primary or secondary product. The main producing area has been the Magondi Basin in an area stretching for over 150km.
Similar copper deposits are found in the south eastern part of the country in the Umkondo Basin.
Several copper prospects also occur in hydrothermal deposits in Archaean Greenstone Belts and in granite eg Inyathi, Copper Duke.
Primary copper production virtually ceased following closure of Mhangura, now being produced as a by-product of other minerals for example PGM, gold, nickel.