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Chinese paying peanuts for chrome

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Chinese miners are reportedly exploiting loopholes in the country’s legislation and holding on to several chrome-mining claims along the mineral-rich Great Dyke Belt, yet they are not formally registered with the Mines and Mining Development ministry, Parliament heard yesterday.

Secretary for Mines and Mining Development Thankful Musukutwa told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy there were loopholes in the legislation which allowed holders to keep their claims without carrying out mining activities as long as they paid licence fees.

Musukutwa said the Act would be amended to rectify that loophole, as well as to consider putting price controls in chrome mining.

“What has been happening is that if a person with a claim cannot work on it, if a Chinese person purchases that claim from them they would work together. We tried to look for those persons in our books and we found Zimbabwean names and not Chinese names,” said Musukutwa.

“The way these Chinese are exploiting our grounds is not the right way and we are not happy about that,” he said.

He also said the blanket ban on raw chrome exports imposed early this year had resulted in several tonnes of the extracted mineral lying idle while huge deposits remain untapped because of price distortions in the mining sector. Musukutwa said the chrome in the Great Dyke was mostly mined by small-scale miners, who then sold it to large mining companies like Zimasco and Zimbabwe Alloys.

“The major reason why we banned the sale was because we wanted to do smelting within the country to create jobs for our people and sell it (the refined product) at the right price,” said Musukutwa.

He said firms like Zimasco and Zimbabwe Alloys underpaid small-scale miners for their raw chrome to the tune of $83 per tonne instead of the recommended $120.

“It is because of the grading system that is used and the big companies pay more for chrome that has been mined using requisite equipment as compared to chrome mined using shovels and picks,” he said.

“It means that a lot of chrome is left underground because picks and shovels cannot go deep down, but it also becomes difficult for those with equipment to mine that chrome as the small-scale miners would have left deep holes.”

Musukutwa told the committee power outages and transport costs affected chrome mining.

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