Zimbabwe on Wednesday banned the export of chrome as it looks to build an internal refinery capacity.
The country, along with South Africa, holds about 90% of the world’s chromite reserves and resources, according to the US Geological Survey, and the ban will affect exports to China and South Africa.
We applaud the move as it sets the tone for broader benefit for the majority of our unemployed youths.
There are three large-scale ferrochrome miners in Zimbabwe, including Zimbabwe Alloys and Zimasco, owned by China’s Sinosteel.
Zimbabwe already has three smelters that have the capacity to handle 1,5 million tonnes of chrome.
The Mines and Mining Development ministry in November 2009 allowed the export of chrome for another 18 months, a period which expired on Wednesday.
The contribution of mining to the revival of the economy has remained limited by the low level of beneficiation and value addition to the country’s vast mineral resources.
There is, therefore, need to ensure that initiatives to increase beneficiation and value addition for all major minerals, including gold, platinum, nickel, copper, coal, coke and other various non-ferrous ores and concentrates, should be undertaken for the benefit of the ordinary citizens.
Currently all diamonds, emeralds and semi-precious stones are exported in the raw form, while a small percentage of gold is value-added to make jewellery. This does not bode well for the development of the economy.
Efforts should be made to promote beneficiation and value addition programmes in the precious metals sector.
There is great potential in expanding ferrochrome production in the country.
The move comes at a time when Finance ministers from Africa who attended an IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington last weekend made calls on African countries to broaden their economic base and not remain dependent on commodity exports for their growth.
Finance minister Tendai Biti said the country’s mainstay for economic growth was mining.
“But this growth is a by-product of the commodities boom that will not touch the peasant farmer in the corner of the country. It needs to be translated into growth with jobs,” he said.
Biti called for a new development model for Africa.
“Most of our economies depend on agriculture or mining, there is little manufacturing or processing . . . this is a debate that we should start now,” he said.
It is in this spirit that we commend the government for taking this bold step. It is our hope that this would also apply to other minerals if the country is to find a quick fix to plethora of challenges besetting the country’s economy.