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Darwendale, a source of livelihood for artisanal chrome miners

By Mining Reporter – Tuesday 26 May 2020

HARARE (Mining Index) – THE rich chrome belt in Darwendale has become a hotspot for artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) flocking to the area to sustain their livelihoods.

Darwendale is part of the Mashonaland West middle dyke which incorporates Ngezi, Maryland, Lembe/Mapinga and Mutorashanga.

Although the area is always guarded by the Zimbabwe National Amy (ZNA), it is survival for the fittest for artisanal miners who sneak in to access chrome belts in order to make ends meet.

Mining Index caught up with one artisanal miner, who has been mining chrome in the area for the past four years.

He said artisanal miners flock there due to lack of employment in the country.

“The number of people mining chrome has increased in the past four years due to economic hardships,”

“There are no permits to get into the area to work, we go there because we have to make ends meet,” he said.

“The 12 kilometres radius from the army base is usually guarded by soldiers so they do not want any mining activity within that area. They only let people mine not because it is allowed, but because they feel pity for us because we have families to feed since they operate in the community where people live. They do not allow any commercial mining within the area,” he added.

With chrome extraction being done through open cast mining, chrome reserves can be reached within 14 metres from ground surface.

And who has been the biggest, if not sole buyer of chrome in that area? The Chinese, who have been paying a paltry US$12 per tonne of chrome.

“The Chinese come every day to buy the chrome, but the prices they buy the chrome for are too low,” he said.

A 2017 research revel that known open pittable chrome resource across the Great Dyke has almost depleted, with isolated patches of mostly low grade and friable ores remaining, pointing to the reason why the Chinese are buying chrome at lower prices.

Chrome pricing anomalies are expected to be ironed out in the chrome policy, which is expected to address other irregularities in the chrome sector including protection of indigenous chrome miners and setting aside chrome reserves for future generations.

There is need to formalise small-scale chrome operations to ensure Zimbabwe accounts for all chrome being mined and exported.

Zimbabwe holds approximately 12 percent of global chromite resource, after South Africa which holds 72 percent, but a 2017 report noted that Zimbabwe companies producing at full capacity are not in the top five producing companies in the world.

This is mainly because of the growing number of artisanal and small scale chrome miners who do not have capacity to conduct larger operations which require heavy machinery such as excavators, tippers and bulldozers to access deeper chrome reserves.

Moreover, primary chrome producers are mostly foreign owned, who have parcelled out part of their concessions to small-scale tributors.

An estimated 95 percent of Zimbabwe’s chrome resource occurs in the Great Dyke that stretches for 550km and is 4-11km wide.

The Great Dyke stretches from Mashonaland Central (North Dyke incorporating Tengenenge, Impinge and Birkdale), Mashonaland West through to Midlands (South Dyke incorporates Lalapanzi, Mapanzure, Bannockburn and CSC).

When we boast to the world Zimbabwe holds the world’s second largest chrome ore deposits estimated at 900 million tonnes, are we not also supposed to boast how our chrome reserves are changing livelihoods of local Zimbabwean people and exhibiting success stories ushering Zimbabwe to the next level of economic development? ENDS// www.miningindex.co.zw 

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