BULAWAYO — The Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (CMZ) has supported calls for the implementation of planned beneficiation of minerals in the country, but said this had to be supported by government policy and strategy.Mining is now the key driver of the country’s economy and is projected to grow by 5, 2 percent this year.
Alex Mhembere, the CMZ president, said before embracing the concept of beneficiation, Zimbabwe needed to develop its mining sector and ensure that beneficiation would get enough resources support and operate viably.
“We need to understand what we mean by beneficiation; beneficiation cannot be overnight achieved through mining,” argued Mhembere.
He said the concept was fairly new in the country hence it could be fully achieved through a national industrial policy.
“We can’t beneficiate by building an industry that does not exist. For us to be able to have polishing diamond industry, we need to create a different industry that polishes diamonds and that is different from digging underground,” said Mhembere.
He added: “For us to be able to say we want to develop steel, to beneficiate our iron, to beneficiate our chrome so that we can produce steel, we need a different technology, a different industry and we need to ensure as well that our industrial investment policy talks about it.”
Mhembere said it was ill-advised of government to begin by banning mineral exports before capacitating the beneficiation industry.
“But if you start by banning without necessarily ensuring that the base is there, it is unfair to the miners; it’s unfair to the miners who can’t go and put a smolder on their own,” he said.
He added: “Value addition is critical; we support it as the chamber of mines, we support it as the mining players but we believe that it must be done in a systematic manner. We need to prepare for it; we need to put policies in place; we need to draft a strategy on how to implement it.” Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Desire Sibanda said there was need for government and mining players to dialogue over beneficiation instead of playing hide-and-seek.
He said the government banned the export of chrome with the intention of promoting value addition, assuming mining players did not want to venture into it.
“But Mhembere said no, there are some things that need to be done before you promote value addition,” said Sibanda, adding that both the government and miners had valid arguments.
“The Ministry’s assumption is that companies do not want to go into value addition but Mhembere’s assumption is that possibly the government doesn’t understand that value addition is a new subject altogether in the industrial policy and not in mining so they are both correct.”
Mining, which has overtakenthe agricultural sector as the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, has contributed significantly to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), from an average of 10, 2 percent in the 1990s to an average of 16, 9 percent between 2009 and 2012.
The sector is forecast to grow by 17, 1 percent this year. It contributed an estimated 16 percent to GDP last year and has been accounting for over 60 percent of total exports since 2009 to date.
However, the government recently banned the exportation of raw ores for minerals such as chrome, manganese and iron in a bid to promote local value addition.
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