HomeBusiness DigestChrome miners’ crisis spirals out of control

Chrome miners’ crisis spirals out of control

BY THOMAS CHIDAMBA

ZIMBABWE’S chrome producers said this week a pricing committee established by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) should take a proactive role in addressing serious distortions that have pushed small scale miners to the brink.

Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) chief executive officer Wellington Takavarasha spoke as miners told businessdigest that following a ban on chrome ore exports in August, prices had plummeted to as low as US$12 per tonne, against international prices of about US$160 per tonne.

Chrome is one of key minerals expected by government to underpin it’s target to build a US$12 billion mining industry by revenue in the next two years, from about US$3 billion currently.

Zimbabwe produced 300 926 tonnes of chrome during the first quarter of this year, compared to 353 669 tonnes during same period in 2020.

Producers say falling output is partly due to poor pricing by mostly Chinese buyers, who have recently set up smelting facilities in Zimbabwe.

“One way to improve chrome trade is to have a vibrant pricing committee,” Takavarasha told the businessdigest.

“There is a pricing committee at the MMCZ, which included ZMF and miners. If they meet regularly, this will go a long way in alleviating some of the pricing problems we currently have. We know of a situation where the prices being offered are very low. It is part of the issue we have lobbied for so that government looks into it,” he said.

This week, chrome miners pleaded with government to put in place measures to safeguard their survival.

Lucas Shelton, a small-scale chrome miner from Shurugwi, said lower chrome prices continued to be the biggest threat to the survival of producers in Zimbabwe.

“The situation is very bad because small-scale miners are being exploited. The pricing crisis has been compounded by the banning of ore exports. There are 22 smelters in the country and most are owned by the Chinese. Chinese buyers have been given an undue influence because of the chrome ore export ban,” he said.

Zimbabwe is said to have the region’s second biggest chrome fields after South Africa.

But after government opened up the sector to thousands of home grown small scale miners to exploit the resource under its empowerment programmes, there has been an outcry in the past five years, with producers saying their chrome was being underpriced.

Their predicament was worsened by the ban on ore exports in August, which gave buyers more room to dictate prices as the market shrunk.

This view was shared by Munashe Zana, another small-scale miner.

“The situation in the chrome mining industry is worrying,” Zana told businessdigest.

“Government has been sitting on the chrome mining policy document for too long. If they continue to sit of the policy document, it means our chrome will continue to be sold for a song.We need the chrome mining policy to address our concerns regarding how chrome is traded,” he said.

“Our chrome should be processed hereso that we have a single pricing system, unlike the current system where we have third party buyers buying our chrome for a song.The government should take an initiative to support chrome miners. We do not want free finance. We want to be competitive in extracting chrome. We want the industry to improve with modern technology,” he said.

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