Where are we with beneficiation?

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ABOUT 60 percent of the country’s land surface is made up of ancient rocks rich in a variety of mineral resources.
The Great Dyke has the second largest deposits of platinum group metals in the world.
Platinum mining began in the late 1960s.
Our chrome ore deposits are categorised as world class.
We have huge iron ore reserves and we also have vast amounts of lithium.
It is estimated that over 11 million tonnes of caesium-petalite deposits exist in Bikita, making it the largest known in the world.
And Zimbabwe also holds 25 percent of the world’s diamond deposits.
Definitely the country has no shortage of minerals.
And next week, all roads lead to Bulawayo for the 2017 Mining Industry, Engineering and Transport (Mine Entra) expo running under the theme ‘Exploring Linkages in the Mining Value-Chain’.
Many topics will be discussed; women in mining, youths in the sector as well as the role of artisanal miners in the industry.
But the most important topic must be value-addition.
This story of our beautiful minerals has no meaning as long as we continue to export them in their raw form.
Mining, which is anchored in value addition and beneficiation, has been identified as key to sustainable economic growth.
In geological parlance, Zimbabwe lies on the ‘Archaean Craton’, a rich belt that holds vast mineral deposits.
It is said that the Craton stretches from the north-east of the country to the south-west.
It extends to Botswana, where you see the Orapa Diamond Field and the Batswana deposits are actually ‘the tail end’ of this Archaean Craton which we sit on.
The West looks at us with envy, ever scheming how to exploit our resources.
Their feverish attempts to effect regime change are spurred by the prospects of laying their hands on this wealth.
But as we have stated in the past, we will always sing: “This is our nation, this is our heritage/ Tinoda Zimbabwe neupfumi hwayo hwese/ Sifuna iZimbabwe lenotho yayo yonke.”
We will sing this song until the end of time but let us make the most of this wealth by adding value to it.
But where are we with regards to beneficiation?
We continue to ship out our platinum in its raw form which effectively makes our status as the country with the second largest deposit of the mineral in the world meaningless.
Our export earnings are predominantly anchored on raw mineral sales when we could be earning more.
And exportation of raw materials means, as a nation, we are exporting wealth in the form of jobs, foreign exchange, industries and tax revenue.
We have heard of the need to have a beneficiation strategy; we are still waiting for it, for without it we will not get maximum benefits from our minerals.
And minerals are a finite resource; what has been shipped out is gone forever.
Indeed, mineral beneficiation and value chains strategy must be part of the broader manufacturing and industrialisation framework.
We must not only dwell on the extraction and disposal of raw minerals.
We do not know what lies in the future; there will be new discoveries with new technologies.
And we need to work on empowering our people.
We should not only protect the resources, but give our people the skills of prospecting, mining and processing the vast mineral wealth.
We need to empower our young scholars to study the geological sciences; mining, engineering and the technologies of extraction as well as value addition.
We must groom our young people so that one day they will take over the ownership and running of the mining houses.
We do not want to forever remain artisanal miners, makorokoza.
We make no apologies for making these demands, we are not making money from the seas like the West who are drilling and getting oil from their off-shore rigs.
The land is ours and what lies beneath it must benefit us, fully.

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