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Govt looks to SA for beneficiation insights

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CONSIDERING the volatility that has characterised mineral prices on the global markets the need to value add our metals has never been more critical to neutralise the impact of a drop in mineral prices. Zimbabwe has not been spared the effects of a volatile global commodities market and that has reflected in revision of the country’s projected mineral exports of US$1,8 billion against US$2 billion in 2012.

With mining officially declared the centrepiece of Zimbabwe’s economic growth in the medium term building a buffer against unforeseen potential decline in mineral exports is critical.

And considering that beneficiation and value addition has also been adopted as a policy priority, it is high time that Zimbabwe swiftly adopts measures to ensure full benefit from its resources.

Beneficiation and value addition can never be taken for granted at a time the two have been prioritised under Government’s new economic blueprint Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation. The policy will inform all Government programmes from 2014 to 2018. After all, who better do it sooner than later in Africa considering the country’s belly is home to more than 40 mineral occurrences spread across the entire geographical spread of its boundaries?

Notwithstanding the innumerable challenges facing the mining sector and entire economy, the mining sector offers some of the most easily exploitable low hanging fruits to underpin economic growth. Other sectors’ potential has been seriously decimated by economic constraints.

Platinum producers have since organised a tour of South Africa’s platinum refinery plant to give Government insight into what it takes to beneficiate the country’s abundant platinum resource. Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Fred Moyo confirmed yesterday that the Platinum Producers’ Association of Zimbabwe had invited officials from his ministry for this crucial tour.

“The platinum producers association invited us to tour the plant to have appreciation of what a platinum refinery plant is all about. I was invited to go together with engineers from the ministry,” he said.

The trip to South Africa should have been undertaken last week, but plans were put on hold due to other pertinent issues including competition for the attention of Government officials at the mines ministry. According to Deputy Minister Moyo, Government will have to provide alternative dates on which it can accompany platinum producers for the tour of the refinery in South Africa. Hopefully, this marks the end of more talk and less action on value adding metals.

The Mines and Mining Development deputy minister said beneficiation and value addition was critical to increase returns from minerals considering the limitations of exporting raw metals.

Apart from increasing the value of minerals and consequently the potential returns establishment of a refinery for platinum in Zimbabwe will result in creation of jobs in the country.

The premium to such an arrangement would also be the comfort internal beneficiation and value addition will give to Government, which is not entirely happy about the level of declared exports.

Considering the fact that mineral resources are a finite resource making sure resources are exploited for the full benefit and sustainable development of Zimbabwe can never be underestimated.

Zimbabwe will need to move with speed and take advantage of opportunities presented by receipts from its mineral endowment while there still is scramble most of the precious metals it produces.

With technology evolution and dynamics the only constant across the entire globe there can never be guarantees that a few generations from now all minerals will retain their present value.

For instance, asbestos used to be the commonest roofing material in most parts of the world, but the order has certainly changed and wide range of alternatives have since taken over.

Apart from the effects of a glut of nickel on global markers due to new projects, China’s experiments with alternatives of mixtures of pig iron and a bit of nickel affected demand and prices.

The fact platinum accounts for about a third of Zimbabwe’s mineral exports in the nine months to September goes to show how critical the resource is to mining sector anchored growth.

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