Chrome exports to double, says mines minister Chidhakwa

Chrome exports to double, says mines minister Chidhakwa

HARARE, February 2 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s chrome exports are this year seen doubling following government’s decision to nationalize chrome fields and reallocate them to small scale miners , Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa has said.

The southern African nation, which is believed to have the world’s second largest reserves of the metal, last year exported 284,943 tonnes, earning the country $31 million and 149,000 tonnes of high carbon ferrochrome which fetched $115 million.

ZimAlloys and Sinosteel’s Zimasco jointly controlled about 80 percent of Zimbabwe’s chrome ore claims, mostly found along the Great Dyke, before government ordered the firms to cede 50 percent of their claims.

The Chinese-owned Zimasco has since ceded 22,000 hectares of its chrome fields to the government but ZimAlloys is yet to comply with the directive.

“We anticipate that Zimalloys will release some of its chrome claims in the very near future and that government will proceed to also distribute these to our indigenous people. We would have hoped to have concluded these discussions long back,” Chidhakwa told journalists on Thursday.

“We are projecting 300,000 tonnes of ferrochrome for 2017 as a result of the measures we have taken in allocating the chrome concessions. For raw chrome we expect some 550,000 tonnes but it is not much money…we would earn more from exports of processed chrome that is why we are pushing to have the smelting in place.”

Of the 22,000 hectares of chrome fields already repossessed, Chidhakwa said the state’s Zimbabwe Geological Service would be allocated 5,746 hectares for future development, while medium scale beneficiation plants and new smelters would be allocated 7,000 hectares to guarantee feed supply.

The remaining 10,000 hectares has been earmarked for distribution to small scale miners and ‘special interest groups.’

Last June, government lifted a ban on raw chrome exports introduced four years ago and scrapped a 20 percent export tax on the metal to boost earnings from the struggling sector.