Zimbabwe makes inroads towards US$12bn mining sector

The Government of Zimbabwe and private sector players in the mining industry are resolute in their commitments towards achieving the US$12 billion by 2023. 

Zimbabwe launched the Strategic Road to the Achievement of $12 billion by 2023 in October 2019 as part of the broader macroeconomic roadmap towards achieving an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

The multi-billion-dollar industry will be driven by gold, platinum, diamond, chrome, iron ore, coal, lithium, and other minerals. 

The background of mineral contribution to the US$12 billion is that US$4 billion will come from gold, platinum, US$3 billion; US$1 billion, diamonds; US$1 billion, coal; US$1 billion from chrome; ferrochrome and carbon steel, half a billion in lithium and US$1,5 billion from other minerals, summing it to US$12 billion.

The artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) are also expected to play an important role towards the mining milestone with sector player’s committing to contribute US$4 billion by the targeted period.

Currently, various projects running into billions of US dollars, largely financed by the private sector, are at different stages of implementation, with the Government facilitating the ease of doing business to encourage investments in the sector. 

This year, the mining sector is estimated to grow 3,4 percent, before reaching 8 percent in 2022, as the country continues to leverage its mineral resources to achieve the desired growth. 

Karo Resources, which signed a $4,2 billion platinum deal with the Zimbabwe Government in 2018, is targeting first production of its four portals before 2023. 

At its peak, Karo is projected to produce about 1,4 million ounces of platinum, more than twice Zimbabwe’s current total output, bringing in billions of US dollars into the country.

Zimplats Holdings, which is presently Zimbabwe’s largest platinum producer, last month approved an overall capital investment strategy for the group with a budget of US$1,8 billion to be implemented over a 10 year period.

According to Alex Mhembere, the group’s chief executive, Zimplats projects resonate well with the government’s quest of the mining sector becoming a US$12 billion industry by 2023 as well as the broader Vision 2030 which seeks to fundamentally transform Zimbabwe to an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

Alex Mhembere

He said the major capital expenditure projects are part of the group’s investment strategy that  began in 2021, with US$1,2 billion already approved for implementation. 

“These projects, including those that are currently in process of being approved, will concentrate on maintaining current production levels through mine replacements and upgrades at a cost of US$516 million,” he said. 

Mhembere added that the strategy is also targeted at expanding production levels through growth projects, including the development of a new mine and increased processing capacity, which will boost nameplate capacity from 6,7 million tonnes per annum to 8,8 million tonnes per annum. 

“ . . . and in-country processing capacity to 380 000 tonnes of concentrate per year, and the establishment of an abatement facility to mitigate sulphuric dioxide emissions emanating from the current and expanded smelting capacity at a cost of US$969 million,” he said.

Mhembere said the capital investment will also include refurbishing the mothballed base metal refinery, to further beneficiate converter matte for US$100 million and investing in a 185 megawatt solar plant to augment power supplies and enhance ESG performance metrics to maintain Zimplats licence to operate at a budget of US$201 million.

According to the giant platinum company, the new mine developments projects are the Mupani Mine development, the third concentrator plant, Bimha Mine Upgrade, Sulphuric acid plant, Expanded smelter, PGM base metal refinery (BMR) plant, Hartley Mine development and Housing. 

Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando, giving an overview of the platinum mining projects recently said Unki Mine tied in their huge expansion programme in October this year while Mimosa is in the process of expanding.

“Over and above that we will then have in 2023 Great Dyke investments and Karo Resources having their first output coming into the equation, so we are in the process of achieving (the US$12 billion targets),” he said. 

Another platinum project, Bravura Consortium, is targeting to finish the first phase of platinum exploration by February 2021, which will confirm the size of the ore body in order to move to the next stage.

The Bravura Consortium is a multi-national mining house registered in the Republic of Dominica, and is domiciled in Ghana, with subsidiaries in Nigeria, DRC, Guinea and Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, through a mining agreement signed last year, the group pledged to spend more than US$50 million to explore and mine platinum. 

The Government also recently tasked Mines Minister Chitando to expedite the reopening of Kamativi Tin Mines and the Todal-Bokai Platinum Project into production so that they contribute to the US$12 billion industry by 2023.

Kamativi, which is wholly owned by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), closed operations in 1994 due to the depressed international prices of tin. 

However, the Government now expects the defunct mine to reopen as a lithium multi-element ore body operation. Under the US$12 billion milestone, lithium is expected to contribute US$500 million by 2023.

The Government also considered the need to get the Todal-Bokai Platinum Project next to Unki Mine into production as soon as possible so that it contributes to the US$12 Billion Mining Industry milestone. 

The Bokai assets were taken from Anglo American Platinum Ltd, which does operate a mine in Zimbabwe, more than a decade ago and handed to Central African Mining and Exploration Co. The company was bought by Eurasian Natural Resources Co. which later became Eurasian Resources Group (ERG).

To date ERG Africa has invested more than US$100 million in exploration works and infrastructure development on the Bokai project.  

Early geological studies indicate that Bokai could yield an output of up to 300 kilo tonnes per month (ktpm) with an adequate resource base to support a 20-year life of mine. 

The Government also resolved to continue the ban on the exports of raw chrome ore in order to realise maximum benefits from the commodity. 

Zimbabwe banned exports of raw chrome ore and of chrome concentrates from July 2022 in order to secure its ferro-chrome industry.  

In the 2022 National Budget, the Mines Ministry was allocated $3 billion that will enable it to implement a number of programmes and activities, which will assist the mining sector to attain its desired growth by 2023.

According to Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe president Colin Chibafa, the private sector is prepared to work closely with the Government to resolve all matters that weigh down the performance of the mining industry.

He said the Ministry of Mines requires support to meet most of the outstanding policy and legislative matters for the mining industry that will promote the attainment of the US$12 billion milestone by 2023.

Through the 2023 mining sector vision policy document, the government is focusing on “value addition, enhanced investment within the sector, increased productivity and employment creation and increased exports and foreign-currency generation.

As part of a broader expansion program, RioZim Murowa, a subsidiary of RioZim, has announced that it intends to commission a processing plant next quarter at its Murowa diamond mine, located in Mazvihwa, south central Zimbabwe that is expected to double its production capacity.

The firm has stated that the project is expected to increase its output from 190,000 tonnes of ore per month, to 500,000 tonnes and will see operations transition from open cut to underground mining.

The commissioning follows the announcement in April this year that RZM Murowa intends to invest over US$450 million into the expansion of its Midlands province operations, with the current phase of the expansion program expected to cost US$62 million, extending operations at the Murowa mine by four years.

In the 2021 mid-term budget, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube revealed that the mining sector has made huge strides towards the 2023 target, with a number of projects having been implemented.

Ncube said the government made the outstanding payment of the purchase of hardware for the operationalisation of the automated Mining Cadastre Information Management System.

The Minister noted that several projects are being pursued towards achieving the mining vision. These include reopening of closed mines, expansion of existing mines, opening of new mines, and establishment of several processing facilities among others. – Herald


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