A lift on chrome ore exports ban by government has been welcomed as a major boost to the economy. The development is expected to create employment at a time when the economy is imploding at an alarming rate.
Government last month lifted the ban it had initially imposed in April 2011 to promote value-addition and beneficiation of the mineral.
There have been a number of challenges to the smelting of chrome owing to high electricity tariffs, falling of international ferrochrome prices and obsolete equipment.
The ban negatively affected small-scale miners who were left vulnerable as a number of smelters shut down, resulting in the loss of at least 2 000 jobs.
According to a document authored by the National Confederation of Chrome Miners Association (NCCMA), which was submitted to the Ministry of Mines this week, the sector has in its eight administrative districts potential to create 35 800 jobs, produce an average of 447 500 tonnes of chrome ore per month.
In a meeting with NCCMA, Mines deputy minister Fred Moyo said the benefits of the ban would be significant if small-scale miners received adequate assistance.
“It is possible to see relief to the economy with chrome ore mining following the lifting of the ban,” Moyo said. “ What is important is for government to have lucrative markets of chrome, which buy at a price of at least above US$90 per tonne of raw chrome. We hope to see improved business in the chrome mining sector considering that even liquidity problems will ease due to increased circulation of money.”
Moyo said government had begun acquiring weigh bridges and laboratory equipment to assist the small-scale miners.
“We have already assigned Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe to start procuring weigh bridges and laboratory equipment used for testing chrome ore grades,” he said.
“We are going to beef up technical expertise in engineering so that miners meet targets in time.”
He said African economies were under-performing because of their failure to wisely utilise time and skills compared to Asian economies.
A Zimasco official who requested anonymity said the lifting of the ban has come as a major relief to the chrome giant at a time the company is facing serious viability challenges.
“It is a great deal on our part and a major relief to our operations,” the official said. “It will ease liquidity constraints in the company which will lead to the employment of more workers.”
In February, small-scale miners tributed by Zimasco lodged complaints to Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) and Ministry of Mines over delayed payment of chrome deliveries over a period of seven months.
The tribute miners said as a result of non-payment they were being taken to labour courts by their employees who are no longer able to look after their families.