Thursday, June 21, 2007

(HERALD) Give Zimbabweans greater control of mineral resources

Give Zimbabweans greater control of mineral resources
By Nomsa Nkala

AGRICULTURE is patently the backbone of every economy and for each nation to prosper, its food industry must be fully exploited. But that industry alone does not totally sustain a nation. Other supportive sectors also have to be recognised and supported to bring total prosperity. Only through a wholesome and proper utilisation of its God-given resources can a nation’s economy fully grow. And Zimbabwe is no exception.

With agriculture on the fore, Zimbabwe has lucrative sectors that, if fully tapped, would help bring the desired results. Among the potentially rich gems is mining.

The mining industry is basically foreign currency-based with the majority of minerals available in Zimbabwe glutted worldwide.

The industry is not only non-seasonal — with only instances of underground water and other minor weather drawbacks that can be managed — but it is also ongoing throughout the year allowing constant productivity where the requisite resources are available.

Zimbabwe has various minerals, with immense worldwide demand in massive locations countrywide, among them chrome, iron, asbestos, tungsten, gold, copper, nickel, cobalt, platinum, palladium, rhodium, silver and coal.

Distribution of these resources are concentrated on the Great Dyke with sadly some single companies holding vast deposits of as high as 60 percent of the country’s total reserves.

Prices for most of these minerals, especially metals, are generally on an upward trend buoyed by massive Chinese demand and that of other developed and growing nations.

Despite the inherent capacity to help hold up the economy, the current industry retains are meagre. Although the prices are improving worldwide, the country’s output of the commodities is continually taking a sharp decline.

While the fall in output of some precious minerals can be attributed to smuggling and other unscrupulous drills by some miners, which the Government is making frantic efforts to eradicate, the compounding factor for the industry’s minimal growth has mostly been productive constraints.

Commendably, the Government, through the Ministry of Mines, has to date extended a supportive hand, especially to small-scale miners through various progressive measures including policy changes.

But access to equipping resources that can be availed by the country’s financial institutions remains a dark area for the enthusiastic small-scale miner.

There is, therefore, urgent need for the Government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, to tailor-make a downstream support programme for the mining industry covering all its aspects that include civil, structural, mechanical and electrical, especially for the smelters.

Investment in this sector is ideally on a larger scale if any meaningful benefits for the country and the relevant communities are to be realised. That kind of investment can also come in joint-venture facilities with foreign players with the Government guaranteeing the protection of the foreign companies taking up these worthwhile challenges.

To ensure full utilisation of the resources, proper monitoring measures have to be put in place, especially for the exporters and follow-up programmes for those who would have benefited from the availed facilities.

Small-scale miners also need to be educated on environmental conservation and rehabilitation to avoid degradation and laws outlining these practices should be put in place and adhered to.

The Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Cde Amos Midzi, recently revealed that the Government was crafting a law that will give indigenous Zimbabweans greater control of the country’s mineral resources while maintaining those mines owned by international firms.

This positive stance gives a flicker of hope to the mining sector, the indigenous miner in particular.

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