Markets, depressed prices stifle small-scale chrome producers’ efforts
The Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), an umbrella board representing small-scale miners, recently elected a new leadership led by the former Zimbabwe Football Association administrator, Henrietta Rushwaya. NewsDay (ND) business reporter Mthandazo Nyoni caught up with ZMF’s newly-elected secretary-general Lindi Mpofu (LM) to discuss issues affecting the sector and listen to the executive’s vision. Find below excerpts of the interview.
By MTHANDAZO NYONI
ND: What is your take on the current state of affairs in the chrome sector?
LM: Small-scale chrome miners in Zimbabwe continue to struggle as access to international buyers remains a challenge in many provinces and local price structures are currently depressed.
ND: As a new national executive, what are your plans going forward for the sector?
LM: To help facilitate the growth of the small-scale miners and see chrome miners include value addition in their growth plans, increase access to capital for further investment into quality control, increased efficiencies and production growth.
ND: What opportunities are there in the sector?
LM: There are several investment opportunities within the sector in the form of capable logistic companies, shunting services, testing laboratories, mobile weighbridge services, toll processing for value addition and banking support services.
ND: How did the sector perform during the first half of 2018?
LM: According to the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) statistics, last year we moved 334 000 tonnes and this year we have moved 405 276 tonnes. This figure is both lumpy chrome and concentrates. To get clear specifics on the exact amount of chrome ore moved, MMCZ would be better placed to answer.
ND: In the period under review, what major challenges did players in the chrome-mining sector face?
LM: I am unable to comment on concentrates as these are mainly foreign-owned entities and not small-scale miners.
For small-scale chrome miners, the depressed pricing coupled with lack of equipment and high equipment hire rates, in addition to inaccessibility to mines during the months of January to April, were some of the major challenges.
ND: How do you think these challenges could be addressed?
LM: Government recently announced a $50 million facility that will be availed to chrome miners. This, of course, is very welcome and will go a long way in addressing most of the issues and challenges.
ND: Do you think government is doing enough to improve the sector?
LM: In recent times, the government, particularly Mines minister Winston Chitando, has shown interest in resolving some of the challenges faced by chrome miners; this is extremely encouraging for the sector.
ND: I understand that miners are not licensed as exporters in their individual capacity. What is your comment on this?
LM: It is true miners aren’t licensed to export directly. Applebridge was brought in to largely assist small-scale producers to consolidate material and avail export services that they were not able to access for themselves and it is a government decision to regulate the export of chrome.
ND: Recently, MMCZ revealed plans to establish a price-regulating team to control chrome prices for the international and domestic markets. What is your take on this?
LM: To my understanding, the team will seek to establish what the minimum price at which chrome can be exported from Zimbabwe is. The reason for this is to ensure the pricing doesn’t negatively impact production. I welcome and applaud this intervention by MMCZ as I have always felt that a pricing strategy derived from all involved parties is beneficial and will improve the sector.
ND: How many metric tonnes of chrome are you targeting to produce as small-scale miners in 2018?
LM: It’s difficult to say. However, with the financing facility in place, the sector should see a significant increase in output once miners have access to funding and equipment.