The call comes in the wake of a government order which cancelled the earlier ban on the export of chrome, chrome fines and other specified chrome products.
A statement from the Mines and Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe said the lifting of the ban was to pave way for a revival of the chrome sector and a window of opportunity for small-scale chrome miners who were hard hit by the ban to re-establish direct contacts with their customers.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president George Kawonza said that while the lifting of the ban has indeed created better opportunities for small-scale miners, they still cannot benefit from the 18 month-long waiver as long as the chrome claims holding structure remains unaltered.
“The small-scale miners have an extremely limited business potential in the chrome sector because they hold a small percentage of the claims of the resource despite its huge abundance. Two mining companies –– the Zimbabwe Mining & Smelting Company and Zimbabwe Alloys hold all the claims on the Great Dyke. We need a share of this resource,” said Kawonza.
He said that, in view of the fact that the small-scale miners were numerically in the majority compared with the big chrome-mining corporations, which are now mostly Chinese-owned, the ZMF recommends a claims shareholding structure of 80% for indigenous small-scale miners and 20% for foreign corporations.
“This will be a fair share for everyone. Chrome is a major mineral in this country and we cannot allow it to exploited solely by foreigners when we have so many of our people who are able to join the industry but cannot do so because the claims are being kept by some big company.
“We feel that they should cede some of these claims for our members to also benefit,” Kawonza said.
Besides prospected areas, the ZMF also wants large slices of the 450 km long and 11km wide Great Dyke to conduct exploration for more chrome and other base metals, which include platinum, gold, iron-ore and diamonds.
The call comes just as the new government is working on toning down the controversial indigenisation law which, if implemented, could have seen locals take over a 51% stake in foreign mines without a buyout.
Bulawayo-based mining industry analyst Victor Nyoni told Mining Weekly Online that the language employed by the ZMF, which is known to be a pro-Zanu-PF grouping, may send the wrong signals, not only to potential chrome sector investors, but to the mining industry in general.
“The ZMF is a politically inclined miners group and as such, its pronouncements may well be seen as indication of future policy changes which will unsettle the industry.
“Investors need an assurance of stability and you do not get that out of a situation where one section of the same industry is calling for the reduction or expropriation of the shares held by another section,” he said.
“This call may indeed have poisonous implications if not explained well, and besides demanding an 80% stake in anything is simply outrageous and underlies both greed and jealousy. They (ZMF) need to revise and rationalise their expectations,” Nyoni said.
No comment was forthcoming from government on the small-scale miners’ call. –– Miningweekly.com