THE ban of raw chrome exports have cost the sector nearly US$4 million in fresh revenue as well as the opportunity create of at least 2,000 new jobs, an industry expert has said.
Chrome Miners Association chairperson Thomas Gono to a Parliamentary committee on mines and energy that the government should lift the ban to ensure the viability of the sector as well as facilitate job creation.
"Government should allow us to export chrome. Chrome producers are stuck with huge stocks of the mineral as a result of the ban," he said.
Gono said nearly 2,000 jobs could be created if the ban was lifted with revenues increasing to as much as US$3,8 million.
The government imposed the export ban in April banned to force producers to invest in processing and value addition so that the country optimize its benefit from the mineral.
Officials estimate that every 2,000 tonnes of chrome ore can generate close to US$1 million when exported in processed form compared with just about US$240,000 when raw.
Small-scale producers have appealed to government for a 36-month grace period to export stocks of the mineral which they have accumulated to enable them to raise capital to set up own smelters.
Gono said small scale producers were stuck with huge stocks of ore since the ban was imposed adding existing processing companies were struggling to cope.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) national chairman Edzayi Kufandarerwa recently said the situation was dire since the country only has one smelter at ZIMASCO.
"We have made representations to government to review the ban and give the chrome producers 36 months to export and establish their own smelters. The whole country cannot take chrome to ZIMASCO," he said.
"ZIMASCO does not take all grades of raw chrome. They take only (chrome of a) certain quality which sometimes small-scale miners may not meet. If the chrome ore is kept for two long it will lose quality," he said.
Zimbabwe, along with South Africa, holds about 90 percent of the world's chromite reserves and resources, according to the US Geological Survey.
There are three large-scale ferrochrome miners in Zimbabwe, including Zimbabwe Alloys and Zimasco, which is owned by China's Sinosteel.
Zimasco recently told state media it planned a $300-million investment in the second half of 2011 to ramp up output and build a new smelter.
The country exported 600 000 t of chrome in the 18 months from November 2009, mostly to China and South Africa, according to official figures.
But the Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe estimates that chrome output could increase to 3,5 million tonnes this year.