Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
ZIMBABWE’S mining sector is a shining example of growing investor confidence in the country under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa as evidenced by the widening fresh investments running into billions of dollars in high-impact projects across mineral sub-sectors.
Today marks five years since President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s second Executive President since independence in 1980.
In his acceptance speech after taking the Oath of Office before thousands of people at the giant National Sports Stadium in Harare on November 24, 2017, President Mnangagwa said the fabulous natural resources that Zimbabwe has must be exploited for the national good, through mutually gainful partnerships with international investors.
In line with the US$12 billion milestone target by 2023, the new projects have seen a huge jump in mining output in the last four years, with corresponding export earnings and massive job creation impact along the value chain.
The mining sector is a key player in the country’s economy, contributing more than 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s export receipts and attracting more than 50 percent of foreign direct investment (FDI).
From an average of US$2,1 billion in annual earnings in 2017, official reports indicate the mining sector achieved US$5,3 billion in earnings last year and is projected to clock US$8 billion this year.
The sector also contributes about 13 percent to Gross Domestic Product, as well as generating significant downstream business and revenue injection to the fiscus through taxes.
President Mnangagwa last week stated that the strides being scored by the sector so far are critical in enhancing the stability of the local currency and jumpstarting the revival of other key economic sectors.
Responding to an enquiry by The Chronicle on the state of key mining projects under the Second Republic, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, said huge strides were being made in scaling up the sector’s contribution towards the attainment of the US$12 billion milestone and Vision 2030.
“The mining sector remains on course towards the achievement of a US$12 billion mining economy by 2023.
“The sector continues to record positive growth underpinned by several programmes that include increased exploration, resuscitation of closed mines, the opening of new mines, expansion of existing mining projects and mineral beneficiation and value addition,” said the ministry. The ministry said key milestones have been made in the gold sub-sector, Platinum Group of Metals (PGMs), diamonds, chrome, iron and steel segments, lithium and energy minerals.
With an estimated combined new mining investment value of above US$6 billion, nearly 1 000 megawatts of new energy support initiatives, the investment projects are at different stages of implementation while some have been completed, in the process creating thousands of job opportunities for locals.
Just last week President Mnangagwa officially commissioned a US$67 million Central Shaft project at Blanket Mine in Gwanda, Matabeleland South, one of the flagship gold investments and deepest shafts in Zimbabwe, with a depth of 1,200 metres from the surface.
The project now employs a total of 1 979 people, a huge jump from about 600 workers before the expansion. Caledonia has also constructed a 12,2MW solar plant at Blanket, at a cost of approximately US$14 million.
The investments are an offshoot of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Government with Caledonia Mining Corporation Plc on 5 October 2020 for the expansion of Blanket Mine.
The mine is increasing production through the Central Shaft Expansion Project and the company is now focusing on increasing production to 80 000 ounces of gold per annum, reducing operating costs and allowing for further exploration to extend the life of the mine beyond 2024, said the ministry.
Similar milestone projects in the gold sub-sector include the RioZim Cam and Motor Mine Box Expansion, which President Mnangagwa launched in Kadoma in April this year.
“The project is the largest in Africa, the second largest in the world and will lead to the processing of refractory gold ores. It will result in the creation of additional direct employment of about 120 people while gold production will reach 140kg per month, during the first phase of the project, and will peak at 200 kilograms per month after Phase 2 is implemented,” said the ministry.
The Second Republic has also facilitated the commissioning of ZIMCN Radnor Gold Mine in Mashonaland East this year leading to the resumption of operations.
So far, a total of US$35 million has been invested into the mine, with 200 workers engaged on a full-time basis, comprising 60 Chinese engineers and 140 Zimbabweans.
Acquisition, installation and turning on of the country’s single largest gold ore crushing unit at a processing capacity of 1000tons per hour as well as construction and operationalisation of the country’s largest gold recovery heap leaching project hosted by a single mining entity, are some of the successes, said the ministry.
Several other projects have been rolled out in re-opening closed gold mines across the country while capacitating hundreds of small-scale miners.
In the PGMs sub-sector, Shurugwi-based Unki Mine has completed its concentrator expansion project, which enables increased concentrator capacity from 179 000 tons per month to 210 000 tons per month, reads the report.
Giant platinum producer, Zimplats is undertaking an expansion project in Mhondoro Ngezi, Mashonaland West following the signing of an MoU with the Government last year that will see the company investing US$1,8 billion to expand its operation by the year 2025.
The scope of the projects includes new mine development, additional concentrator, PGMs smelter expansion, PGM Base Metal Refinery (BMR) plant, sulphuric acid plant, as well as the 110MW solar power plant.
Mimosa Mining Company is also expanding its concentrator capacity in Zvishavane and the project is on course for completion in February 2023. The project will generate US$27 million per annum with a workforce of about 33 people,” said the ministry.
Under the Second Republic, the chrome, ferrochrome and steel sectors are coming in strongly as a huge investment haven.
Early last month, President Mnangagwa led the ground-breaking at Dinson Iron and Steel Company Carbon Steel Plant, which will produce 1,2 million tons of carbon steel per annum, generating around US$1,9 billion per annum.
The capital investment by Chinese-owned global investor, Tsingshan Group for Phase 1 of the project is about US$1 billion and is expected to have an annual turnover of over US$600 million per annum.
“The project is set to employ over 2000 workers during the first phase. At full throttle, the steel company itself is expected to employ more than 10 000 workers directly while it will create employment for millions of Zimbabweans indirectly through the upstream and downstream industries,” said the ministry.
Similarly, Kwekwe-based chrome producer, Zimasco, is undertaking a high-carbon smelter establishment project in which the upgraded furnaces are expected to produce 80 000 metric tons per annum and to employ 100 locals from April 2023.
“The upgraded Number 7 and 8 Furnaces are expected to produce 70 000 metric tons per annum of high carbon ferrochrome. A total of US$150 million per annum revenue is anticipated,” said the ministry.
In the diamonds sector, the Government has facilitated the construction of the RZM Murowa 500 TPH Greenfields Diamond Plant Project.
The project is now complete, and now awaiting commissioning.
“The expansion is expected to increase output from 190 000 tons of ore per month to 500 000 tons per month,” reads the report.
The project will create employment for 679 locals and increase diamond production in Zimbabwe, foreign currency generation and development of the local communities of Zvishavane.
The expansion of RZM Murowa Diamonds is a success story to the President’s call for investors to invest in the geologically rich nation. RZM Murowa Diamonds is a key driver in achieving the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and Vision 2030.
On energy mineral projects, Matabeleland North province is earmarked to play a leading role given its vast coal deposits, which has seen the province attracting multi-million dollar worth of several coal to coke and gas investments.
Dinson Colliery, South Mining, Makomo Resources and Hwange Colliery, are some of the companies that are tapping into vast opportunities in this sphere.
Dinson Colliery Limited, a subsidiary of Tsingshan Group has already completed Phase One of its coke oven battery operationalisation, which is now ready for commissioning
The ministry said Phase 2 coke oven battery is scheduled for completion by April of 2023.
“Phase 2 of the project will have a capacity of 180 000 tons per annum, generating revenue of US$54 million per annum and create employment for 500 locals,” said the ministry.
A Mines to Energy Park is also being established in the Mapinga area, Mashonaland West, after President Mnangagwa presided over the signing of an MoU between the Government and Eagle Canyon International Group Holdings and Pacific Goal Investments on 16 September 2022.
The ministry said the park will have two 300 megawatts power stations and a coking plant with a capacity of 1,2 million tons of coke per annum at an estimated cost of US$200 million.
As part of the broader project, there will be a US$400 lithium salt plant with a capacity to produce over 30 000 tons of lithium hydroxide as well as setting up a graphite plant at an estimated cost of US$180 million for Phase I.
It will have the capacity to produce 75 000 tons of 95 percent purity graphite per annum, and a further Phase II for the battery-grade product.
The project further entails the construction and setting up of a nickel sulphate plant to produce 150 000 tons of nickel sulphate and 600 000 tons of magnesium oxide per annum, among others at an estimated cost of US$1 billion.
This will be complemented by the setting up of a nickel-chromium alloy smelter to produce 300 000 tons of nickel-chromium alloy per annum at an estimated cost of US$500 million.
Given the rising global demand for lithium, Zimbabwe, as one of the top world lithium source countries, has set its focus on harnessing investments into this sub-sector with a number of projects under the spotlight.
Among these is the Sinomine Bikita Minerals spodumene project in Masvingo, whose ground-breaking ceremony was led by President Mnangagwa this year.
Sinomine acquired an effective shareholding in Bikita Minerals (Private) Limited (“Bikita”) in February 2022 through the purchase equity in Bikita held by external shareholders.
The company has been investing in Zimbabwe for over than 15 years, commencing with exploration, contract mining, and investing in the lithium businesses from the Arcadia Resources project to the acquisition of Bikita Minerals.
Following takeover by Sinomine, Bikita’s strategic development plan involves, among others, resource exploration and plans to invest US$50 million dollars expanding the pearlite plant to increase the current capacity and production.
The company will also invest US$150 million dollars to set up a new spodumene production line and to develop the spodumene project. Spodumene contains chemical grade lithium required for batteries, which requires several processing before it can be used to make batteries.
An additional US$20 million dollars will be invested to set up a new 110km power line from Tokow station via Masvingo to Bikita Mine, which will improve the national grid and benefit the whole of Masvingo Province for its people, said the ministry.
Construction of another Lithium Processing Plant is underway at Sabi Star Mine in Buhera, Manicaland and the project is scheduled for completion in February next year.
According to the ministry, its annual turnover is estimated at around US$600 million per annum with a workforce of 400 people directly and indirectly.