Zim to focus on mineral exploration after near flat H1 sales

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Business Writer

HARARE – The Zimbabwean mining sector is expecting increased exploration activity after government lifted the suspension on the issuance of Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPO’s).

EPOs are obtained through an application made to the Mining Affairs Board. The maximum possible period of holding onto an EPO, according to mining laws is six years, initially for three years and possible extension for a maximum three years.

Funding challenges and delays in issuance of EPO’s has been hampering the country’s exploration drive.

According to data from S & P Global Market Intelligence, Africa as a whole remains poor in allocating funds for exploration. In 2017, Africa received exploration budgets totaling $1,09 billion and remains in fourth place with 14 percent of the global budget. The allocation represents an increase of 18 percent ($163.5 million) year over year. The Democratic Republic of Congo dominates exploration in Africa at 13 percent despite a 5 percent budget decrease from 2016 while Zimbabwe’s exploration allocation is at 1.1 percent.

There is talk that Zimbabwe is under-explored with most of exploration data having been generated in the 50s and 60s and the Southern African country has not been subjected to exploration using modern techniques.

Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe chief executive Isaac Kwesu told Business Times that there is expected improved activity in mineral exploration in the country after government started issuing EPO’s.

“Of late government has not been issuing EPO’s but that is a thing of the past now and we are expecting increased activity on exploration activities across the country. There has also been issuance of new mining licences and that alone is also set to increase exploration in the country,” said Kwesu.

Zimbabwe’s mining sector has the potential to make significant contribution to the country’s growth over the medium to long-term. Zimbabwe is a mineral rich country with great potential for further discoveries. The country has a huge and highly diversified mineral resource base dominated by two prominent geological features namely the Great Dyke and ancient Greenstone Belts also known as Gold Belts.

About 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s land is said to comprise ancient rocks renowned worldwide for hosting rich varieties of minerals resources including gold, base metals (for example nickel, copper, zinc and lead) and industrial minerals (limestone, phosphates, clay and dolomites). Zimbabwe has got the second largest deposits of platinum in the world.

The need for exploration comes as Zimbabwe’s mineral sales excluding gold grew marginally to $780,55 million from $763,33 million, an increase of 2 percent.

Statistics from the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), indicate that Platinum Group of Minerals (PGMs) matte, contributed $268,7 million, while PGMs concentrate added $232,9million. Diamonds earned $429 million while Nickel and Chrome concentrate contributed $34,4 million and $44,8 million respectively.

Most of the minerals in first six months of 2018, recorded significant volume increases with chrome ore registering the highest growth of 251 percent to 108,802mt from 31,032mt in the prior year, while chrome concentrate went up by 47 percent to 296,475mt.

Other significant growths were witnessed in coal mining which grew 24 percent to 38,370mt, diamonds added 16 percent to 481,820 carats.