By Golden Sibanda
Government says it will allocate part of chrome-rich idle concessions released by chrome mining/smelting firms to smelters whose operations are being hampered by shortage of feed stock.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said contrary to recent reports, Government will not ban raw chrome exports, but give concessions to other processors for own supply of ore.
This would improve availability of ore required for processing into ferro-chrome, which has higher market value than raw chrome.
Government sees this as critical in light of rising global prices.
The Mines minister said that they had already started the allocation of 18 000 hectares of chrome rich ground released by Zimasco while awaiting release of more idle claims by Zim-Alloys.
Government is targeting repossessing up to 40 000 hectares of chrome rich but idle ground held by mostly Zimasco and Zim-Alloys, the country’s biggest chrome mining and processing companies.
Small-scale miners, who have been working on mostly tribute claims, are also expected to have the claims they are working on registered into their names in addition to being assisted with equipment.
Minister Chidhakwa said Government had noted that returns from ferrochrome were much higher to proceeds from raw chrome exports, hence the need to support value addition of the metal.
Zimbabwe’s raw chrome exports amounted to 284 943 tonnes last year, generated a mere $31 million against 149 131 tonnes of high carbon ferrochrome, which earned the country $115 million.
Zimbabwe anticipates chrome ore production to double this year to 550 000 tonnes from 284 943 tonnes last year. Ferrochrome output is also expected to increase to 300 000 tonnes, up from 149 000 tonnes.
“We are going to promote producers by giving them claims so that they can meet own requirements of ore from the mining operations. We are not in the mood to put a ban,” the minister said.
Minister Chidhakwa said claims that Government was considering a ban on raw chrome exports were inaccurate, as he had only tried to point out that exporting ferro-chrome was more lucrative.
“We will allocate them claims from the ground released by Zimasco. We will allocate the claims to the smelters so that, at least, they meet part of their requirements from own mines,” he said.
Chrome prices have been improving since 2016 and, according to analysts Roskill, chrome ore prices had recovered to their highest levels since the global economic downturn by the third quarter.
Government once banned chrome exports, in 2011, with a view to encourage beneficiation of the metal, but lifted the ban in 2015, as stockpiles hit 30 million tonnes and affected viability of miners who could not find a local market due to low smelting capacity.
In a bid to eliminate accountability issues relating to chrome exports, partly blamed for poor returns from the sub-sector, Government formed a special purpose vehicle, Apple Bridge, to oversee export of the precious metal alongside key State agencies.
Zimbabwe has huge potential as a producer of chrome given that between them, Zimbabwe and South Africa, hold about 90 percent of known global reserves.