Mineral beneficiation – points to ponder

Mineral beneficiation – points to ponder

By Mukasiri Sibanda, HARARE, October 19 (The Source) – Mining, essentially value addition and beneficiation, is one of the growth engines for the country’s development plans under the Zimbabwe Agenda and for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) and the Ten Point Plan.

This objective is inspired by the fact that the country’s export earnings are predominantly anchored on raw mineral sales. Exporting raw materials translates to exporting wealth in the form of jobs, foreign exchange, industries and tax revenue.

The African Union’s Mining Vision — published in 2009, envisages a mining sector that is a key component of a diversified, vibrant and globally competitive industrialized African economy.

Befittingly, the National Economic Consultative Economic Forum held a breakaway session on mining at the Harare International Conference Center (HICC) on 12 October 2016 during the inaugural National Economic Symposium under the theme “Enhancing National Competitiveness and Economic Prosperity through Dialoguing.”

Topical issues discussed were on national prosperity through value addition and beneficiation and artisanal mining, economic contribution, challenges and solutions.

Moderated by a Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) official, the panel comprised of the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (CoMZ) chief executive officer, Isaac Kwesu; Fredrick Kunaka, the general manager for Fidelity Printers and Refineries (FPR) and Professor Francis Gudyanga, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development (MMMD).

Below are some of the interesting discussion points and recommendations that were made during the panel discussion:

• Zimbabwe has no beneficiation strategy despite hinging its socio-economic development prospects on mining, particularly value addition and beneficiation. A beneficiation strategy must be formulated urgently. Mineral beneficiation and value chains strategy must be part of the broader manufacturing and industrialisation framework. Countries like South Africa have beneficiation strategies. Such a strategy can help transform the comparative advantage inform of our mineral wealth endowment into a competitive advantage. Issues such as cost competitive production, appropriate technologies, skills and craftsmanship are some of the factors that foster competitive advantages. The issue of comparative advantage versus competitive advantage account for the reason why most countries undertaking mineral beneficiation are not mineral producing countries. A strong and vibrant domestic market is also a critical enabler to value addition and beneficiation.

• There is need to address infrastructure gaps and high costs of utilities like power to enable value addition and beneficiation. Much needed power for beneficiation is in short supply, unreliable and quite expensive.

• Systematic quantification of the mineral resource base must be carried out. The last systematic of mineral was carried out in 1981.

• The is need to establish a multi-stakeholder technical working group to diagnose the reasons behind the shutting down of various beneficiation plants in the country. Some of the closed beneficiation plants include Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel), ZimAlloys (chrome), Kamativi (tin) and Alaska copper refineries among others.

• Easy of doing business reforms must be carried out to urgently to promote formalization of the artisanal mining sector. Compliance requirements are too complex and it is costly to comply. This accounts for why many artisanal miners prefer to work illegally and informally.

• Legislative and institutional reforms are need to curb the rampant smuggling of gold.

• Good environmental management practices must not be sacrificed to promote the growth of artisanal mining. Environmental costs, if not managed well, will hurt future generations.

Mukasiri Sibanda is an economic governance officer for the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA)