A cartel with foreign and local players is invading chrome mining claims along the mineral-rich Great Dyke belt, giving President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration a fresh headache amid fears of a potential source of future machete wars.
The Great Dyke belt, which is a linear geological feature that stretches for more than 500 kilometres through the centre of Zimbabwe passing just to the west of the capital, Harare, is home to about a fifth of global chrome ore reserves.
It is also the second largest chrome ore reserve in the world after South Africa as well as hosting other ore deposits including gold, silver, nickel and asbestos, according to official data obtained from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
However, the belt has garnered a lot of attention because the country’s ore resources are said to be of a higher grade than the other parts of the world, with an average chrome to iron ratio of 2:1, according to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
The belt also contains the world’s largest known platinum group metals outside of South Africa.
It is understood that the cartel, which is said to be backed by powerful politicians, is using hostile means to invade and grab mines along the mineral-rich Great Dyke and smuggle the mineral either to China or South Africa.
According to investigations, the cartel invades mining claims and extract for about two months and leave.
“There is a cartel boasting of political backing that has been bombing people’s rich chrome claims especially along the Great Dyke.
The cartel consists of local and foreigners who after mining are accused of circumventing chrome selling procedures,” one source said.
Contacted for comment, the Zimbabwe Miners Federation secretary for external affairs Gift Karanda confirmed receiving reports of the rogue grouping.
“We have heard so many reports to that effect and those cases have been on the increase,” Karanda said.
No comment could be obtained from Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando.
Unregulated mining has fuelled machete wars with gangs such as MaShurugwi and the Al-Shabaab terrorising citizens especially in the Midlands Province.
A 2019 report by the Zimbabwe Peace Project showed that machete wars claimed over 100 lives between August and November.
The invasion of the Great Dyke comes at a time when there is a huge demand for chrome in the international market following the loosening of global Covid-19 restrictions.
This has seen various investors and mining players scrambling for chrome mining concessions in Zimbabwe.
The recovery of China, the world’s biggest consumer of chrome, has also resulted in the price of chrome soaring to about US$200 per tonne depending on the grades from about US$70 per tonne. Business Times