‘Minerals should benefit Zimbabweans first’
Fungi Kwaramba in BIKITA
ADHERENCE to ethical mining practices coupled with value addition and beneficiation of minerals will enable Zimbabwe to derive maximum benefits from its natural resources for shared prosperity among its citizens, President Mnangagwa said yesterday.
Commissioning Bikita Minerals’ Spodumene and Palatine Plants, which will add value to lithium ore, President Mnangagwa said gone are the days when the country used to export its minerals in their raw form, thus losing huge revenues to foreign countries.
With the advent of the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa, the focus is now on value addition and beneficiation as that has far-reaching economic ripple effects, that include job creation and an increased tax base for the Government.
The President said his Government is determined to see its citizenry deriving maximum benefits from mining activities.
“I challenge all players in business, industry, and commerce in general, and the mining sector in particular, to undertake their operations with the highest ethical standards, professionalism, honesty, and integrity.
“Corruption of any kind will never be condoned by my Government and the law will apply without fear or favour. The overarching need to grow ‘the bottom line’ must never be at the expense of the laws of the country or the well-being of our people who must see transformative changes to their quality of life as a result of our country’s rich and numerous resources. Let us, therefore, always seek to realise sustainable prosperity that benefits all Zimbabweans,” said the President.
Spodumene, considered the most important lithium ore mineral, is used in manufacturing mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras, automotive batteries, and in the ceramics industry.
Thus the milestone achieved by Bikitia Minerals is in sync with the Government’s thrust of minerals beneficiation and value addition for maximum benefits.
President Mnangagwa said ultimately the country should be a source market for finished lithium products to pivot it as a major player in the transition to green energy anchored on lithium.
“As Zimbabwe, we equally remain alive to our broader strategic responsibility to supply vital resources to a vast number of global industries, for shared prosperity.
“We will, therefore, continue to exercise good stewardship over the many natural resources in our country, by ensuring that stakeholders in the sector practice responsible mining that guarantees environmental sustainability.
“To date, the Responsible Mining Initiative launched by my Administration has prioritised environmental matters and scaled up the protection of our natural ecosystems and resources for both present and future generations.
“The exercise has also helped to highlight challenges and proffer solutions for the overall improvement of our mining sector”.
The President added that through the whole of Government and Society approach, his administration is “minimising environmental harm and biodiversity while maximising benefits for both investors and the generality of the people of Zimbabwe”.
“As you are aware, lithium is one of the critical raw minerals for our journey to net zero. It is most opportune that this event is happening on the backdrop of my attendance at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) being held in the United Arab Emirates. The issues on the increased use of renewable energy, climate finance and energy transition, among other aspects, will be discussed. Zimbabwe remains committed to putting people, nature, lives and livelihoods at the heart of our climate action agenda”.
President Mnangagwa, who was accompanied by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and Mines and Mining Development Minister Zhemu Soda, commended Sinomine Group, which was represented by its chairman Mr W Ping Wei, for heeding his Government’s call for value addition.
“I commend Sinomine Resource Group for taking heed of my Government’s call for beneficiation and value addition of lithium ores by investing over US$300 million into the various stages of the project. This has contributed to the realisation of our target of attaining a US$12 billion mining economy by year end.
“The milestone represents part of my Government’s efforts to consolidate our position as a regional and global hub for lithium mining and related industries”.
The milestone achieved by Bikita Minerals must therefore be emulated by other mining companies to consolidate gains made in the critical sector.
“The increased beneficiation of our abundant natural resource endowment does not only relate to players in the lithium sector but across the entire mineral value chain.
“I challenge all mining houses to adhere to agreed roadmaps to enable the establishment of more precious metal refineries and the local manufacturing of finished goods from our vast minerals. This has become urgent, given the need to de-risk our mining sector from global shocks and mineral price volatility”.
For instance, the President added, while the plants he commissioned yesterday come in handy, the ultimate goal for the lithium sub-sector is to produce batteries and other clean energy-related products that should feed into the multi-billion-dollar Mapinga Mines to Energy Industrial Park.
As the country’s economy continues to grow in leaps and bounds, the President charged companies to work hand in glove with the Government in the expansion and modernisation of existing infrastructure to facilitate trade and commerce.
“I, therefore, applaud Bikita Minerals for setting aside US$10 million towards the construction of a new bridge that will complement the existing Birchenough Bridge as part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility projects.
“Similarly, Bikita Minerals is constructing a US$22 million power line, expected to be commissioned during the first quarter of 2024, while an additional US$2 million has been set aside for the rural electrification programme covering Bikita, Gutu and Zaka Districts.
“I congratulate Bikita Minerals and the Sinomine Resource Group for these noble and high-impact projects. I challenge other private sector players to also invest in similar projects to further precipitate the growth of our economy, over and above the improvement of the livelihoods of the people of our great motherland, Zimbabwe”.
With the country’s tertiary institutions leading in innovations—President Mnangagwa called on Zimbabweans to be ever-alert and harness skills from foreign-owned entities.
“Meanwhile, synergies should continue to be strengthened with our institutions of higher learning to close the skills gap and prepare for future skills requirements. Present training must be sharpened for fit-to-purpose graduates and artisans while knowledge transfer from diverse disciplines should be earnestly pursued”.
He said the Second Republic will continue to implement sound policies and entrench a conducive business environment for all investors, regardless of size, for a win-win outcome.
In Zimbabwe, the mining industry is critical to the realisation and fulfillment of the country’s Vision 2030, to become an upper-middle-class economy, and a cocktail of measures for enhanced production and productivity have been set in motion with new mines being opened, dormant ones resuscitated while those in operation are being expanded.