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Mining industry unpacked

This article seeks to give an overview of the minerals found in Zimbabwe. The country’s mining industry is poised for growth with the Government planning annual export earnings of US$12 billion in the next few years. 

This sector presents lots of investment opportunities. Its main attraction is the ability to earn foreign currency for businesses and the country.

The main sources of information for this article include the websites for the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (COMZ) and the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ).

The COMZ classifies minerals into the following four groups:

Base minerals

l Industrial minerals

l Energy minerals

l Precious metals

The classes are explained hereunder.

Base minerals or metals

According to COMZ a base metal may be distinguished by oxidising or corroding relatively easily and reacting variably with diluted hydrochloric acid (HCI) to form hydrogen. Examples include copper, iron ore, nickel, chrome and others such as lead and zinc.

Copper is ductile with very high thermal and electricity conductivity. It used as a conductor of heat and electricity and a building material. 

As regards iron the country has struggled to produce the ore due to the challenges at ZISCOSTEEL (Zisco) hence large imports of steel. This explains why the Government is making attempts to revive the failing giant. If Zisco comes back to life it will be a game changer of seismic proportions. Steel has multiple uses in an economy. 

According to the MMCZ, most nickel is used to make stainless steel with nickel compounds used for nickel-plating, to colour ceramics, make some batteries and as catalysts that increase the rate of chemical reaction. On the other hand, chrome ore resource is mostly found along the Great Dyke and is processed into ferrochrome. High carbon ferrochrome is commonly used in the production of stainless steel and high chromium steels.

Industrial minerals

Broadly, these minerals are used in industries based on their physical or chemical properties. They are not a source of fuel or metal. According to the COMZ, such minerals in Zimbabwe include asbestos, lithium, graphite, black granite and diamonds.

Zimbabwe is home to long fibre asbestos. Unfortunately the blanket restrictions on the export of asbestos into certain European and North American markets has frustrated the local production and export of asbestos. Zimbabwe has large deposits of lithium. 

Lithium is used in the production of batteries and has become popular with the advent of electric cars. The black diamond resource is considerable and the stone is used locally as well as exported.

The country produces diamonds at mines such as Murowa. There are  many developments around diamond mining in Zimbabwe, the latest being the formation of the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.

Energy Minerals

Energy minerals include coal and coal-bed-methane (“CBM”). The country has vast resources of coal in the north-west and southern parts. Some of the producers of coal in Zimbabwe include companies such as Hwange Colliery Company and Makomo Resources. Coal is used for heating including for power generation at the country’s thermal power stations such as Hwange, Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare.

CBM is found in the north-western part of the country and is an alternative to coal.

Precious minerals or metals

According to the COMZ, a precious metal is defined as a rare, naturally occurring metallic element of high economic value. Chemically, the precious metals tend to be less reactive than most elements. They are usually ductile and have a high lustre. Historically, precious metals were used as currency, but are now regarded mainly as investment and industrial commodities. Precious metals found in Zimbabwe include gold, silver, platinum and palladium. 

Most people are familiar with gold production, its trade and export through Fidelity Printers and Refiners, now unbundled into two companies, including products made from gold. Gold is a significant foreign currency earner for Zimbabwe and excites a lot of businesspeople. 

Silver is soft, lustrous, reflective and possesses high electricity conductivity. Most silver is produced as a by-product of copper, gold, lead and zinc refining. The main platinum reserve is found in the Great Dyke. 

Most people are familiar with companies such as Zimplats and Mimosa which produce platinum. According to the MMCZ, platinum group metals (“PGMs”) mined in Zimbabwe consist of platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium found along the Great Dyke from layered mafic-ultramafic intrusion extending 550 km. 

The application for the PGM elements is mainly hinged on their unique properties such as oxidation resistance, resistance to corrosion, chemically inertness, biocompatibility, high melting temperature, good conductivity, electronic and catalytic properties.

Growth and business opportunities

From a national perspective, there are real and significant growth opportunities in the mining industry hence the Government’s prioritisation of the sector. There are opportunities from a business or entrepreneurial point of view.

More articles on mining

Space permitting, more articles on mining will follow especially on applicable laws.

Disclaimer: This simplified article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute the writer’s professional advice. 

 Godknows Hofisi, LLB(UNISA), B.Acc(UZ), CA(Z), MBA(EBS,UK) is a legal practitioner / conveyancer with a local law firm, chartered accountant, insolvency practitioner, registered tax accountant, consultant in deal structuring, business management and tax and is an experienced director including as chairperson. He writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on +263 772 246 900 or Herald

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