HARARE – Small scale chrome miners have in the past five years significantly improved production on a comparative yearly basis, earning over $75 million, latest data shows.
The government has resultantly committed to avail more support and put in place measures to ensure further growth of the sector through a policy set to be unveiled soon.
Latest figures from the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), which is responsible for marketing and selling of minerals, show that both the sector’s earnings and production have been on a growth trajectory since 2015.
In 2015, the small chrome miners produced 5 000 tons, earning US$400 000 and in the following year, the figures jumped to 75.3 tons worth US$6.2 million.
In 2017 production surged to 218 tons, raking in US$23.9 million and further improved in 2018 to 337 tons, earning US$35.8 million.
In the first five months of this year, the sector produced 98.7 tons, with earnings hovering around US$9.3 million.
Deputy Mines and Mining Development Minister, Polite Kambamura told chrome producers at a meeting that the government was finalising a policy aimed at enhancing growth of the sector.
“We are in the process of drafting the chrome policy to try and bring sanity to the sector in terms of transparency and also in line with the government’s thrust for value addition,” he said.
The policy would also seek to address issues around side marketing.
Kambamura said the government was aware of complaints that too much focus had been given to small scale gold producers at the expense of other sectors.
“The same thrust that was being given to artisanal miners in gold is the same attention that we will be giving you,” he said.
He lauded players in the sector for investing in value addition initiatives since the lifting of a ban on raw chrome exports.
“After the ban was lifted, we have seen a significant improvement in companies value adding chrome to high carbon ferrochrome,” he said.
While appreciating efforts to support the sector, Zimbabwe Miners Federation president, Henrietta Rushwaya again bemoaned the presence of “predators” in the sector, who were buying the mineral at criminally cheap prices from locals with no export connections, then selling to international buyers at higher prices.
“There is predatory buying across the Great Dyke which is quite rampant. This involves indigenous miners who are surrendering controlling stakes of their mines in order to stay in production,” she said, hinting that the buyers were foreigners who were repatriating the proceeds outside the country.
The buyers, mostly Chinese, are said to pay a meagre 15 percent of the export value of the mineral.
Rushwaya said, as a result, both local miners and the government were losing out in terms of revenue earnings.
She also criticized the 50 percent foreign currency retention rate for the sector, which she said was too low.
“The bulk of mining equipment is imported and this needs foreign currency,” she said.
Rushwaya also called on the government to ensure that the Environmental Management Agency charged lower amounts for Environmental Impact Assessments for small producers.
At the moment, both large and small producers are paying US$5 000 for EIAs.
Meanwhile, Confederation of Ferrochrome Industries of Zimbabwe chairman, John Musekiwa bemoaned the high cost of power and current load shedding which was making the business uncompetitive.
He also called for the adoption of modern smelting technologies which are more efficient and improve the quality of the product as well as cut production costs. – New Ziana