CABINET has approved an immediate ban on all exports of unprocessed chrome ore in order to protect the ferrochrome industry, which it says is integral in the country’s attainment of an envisioned US$12 billion industry by 2023.
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By James Muonwa
Announcing the latest strategy to boost the mining sector during Tuesday’s post Cabinet media briefing, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister, Monica Mutsvangwa said the moratorium on raw chrome ore exports would promote the local value-addition chain.
“In light of the need to safeguard the ferrochrome industry in the above regard, Cabinet approved a total ban on exports of raw chrome ore with immediate effect. The ban will capacitate current smelters and maximise the value chain to be realised from the country’s abundant resources as spelt out in the National Development Strategy (NDS) 1,” she said.
As a measure to further hedge the industry, the external trade in chrome concentrates will be stopped effective July next year.
Said Mutsvangwa: “Cabinet approved the total ban of export of chrome concentrates with effect from July 2022. This gives producers of chrome concentrates a year within which to make suitable arrangements for the value addition of the concentrates, the investment of which is low capital cost and relatively easy.”
“Accordingly, exports of any consignment of raw chrome will only be allowed provided that all the smelters are not in a position to take up and utilise that particular consignment.”
Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando told Cabinet these initiatives, among others in the gold sub-sector, will spur the nation to achieve a US$12 billion mining industry in two years’ time.
Zimbabwe is endowed with arguably the world’s second biggest resources of chrome ore which is required for metallurgical processes such as steel manufacturing.
“A cumulative twenty-two smelters are now operating and are shared among nine foreign and local companies. Unless chrome mining capacity is expanded, the smelting operations could soon face the challenge of insufficient feedstock in the form of chrome ore,” Mutsvangwa said.
In a bid to grow the mining industry, government is mulling establishment of gold centres, which will be expected to provide basic equipment such as compressors and jack hammers.
Working capital to facilitate optimal production by small-scale miners who supply gold ore to Fidelity Printers and Refiners would be availed.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will maintain presence, directly or through approved buying agencies, at all gold centres to plug leakages of the precious yellow metal.
Cabinet approved proposals for the setting up of over twenty gold centres by mid-2022.
“Accordingly, Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) will be signed with four investors who have been identified for the purpose of setting up the gold centres. The investors will own 100% equity in the facilities, while those who operate joint ventures with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development will fully fund the operations of the centres in return for a 90% equity stake,” Mutsvangwa said.
Cabinet, therefore, approved that Mines ministry signs MoUs with investors intending to locate, establish, fund and run gold centres already provided for in the Mines and Minerals Act at Makaha, Odzi, Mount Darwin, Shamva, Mazowe and Silobela.
In the diamonds sub-sector, Mutsvangwa noted, Cabinet realised the need to facilitate a new investor, Ashelroi Trading and Services, to participate in the diamond auction system as already stipulated in the diamond value addition chain in NDS 1.
The new investor is expected to build an advanced diamond cutting and polishing plant in the country and promote skills and technology transfer on value-addition.