THE Zimbabwean government is expected to lift the ban on chrome ore exports in April, exactly a year after it was reinstated following protracted negotiations with industry stakeholders, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
The move is among a raft of reforms anticipated in the extractive industry which hopes for a downward review of government's 2011 increase in mining fees and ground rentals by as much as 5 000%.
Highly placed sources in the mining industry said the Ministry of Mines had already approved the decision which now awaits implementation.
"The Ministry of Mines has already agreed to allow miners to export chrome on condition that weighbridges are built on Chikwalakwala and Nyamapanda borders where chrome was being shipped through," said a source.
Chrome miners were using these two entry points to smuggle chrome into Mozambique.
It is alleged most companies deliberately underweighted the exports by, for example, labelling 1,3 tonnes of chrome as one tonne because of the absence of a weighbridge.
The ministry is also understood to be investigating concerns of the industry, particularly low prices. Chrome miners claim the market is flooded.The lifting of the ban, which is also meant to protect small-scale chrome miners most of whom are indigenous, comes with a tax on sales to facilitate local beneficiation which is currently too low to warrant the embargo.
The nature of the tax is yet to be specified and analysts say it would be a further barrier to the viability of the battered industry, especially given the low prices of raw chromium which closed the year between US$165 and US$185 per tonne, from a peak of US$230 per tonne in May.
However, the industry has argued the decision to lift the ban on raw chrome ore exports would not be enough to save chrome mining, as the industry teeters on the brink of collapse due to deepening viability challenges.
Local mining expert and immediate past president of the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe, Victor Gapare, said any additional levies on chrome exports would make chrome mining unviable and ultimately defeat the purpose of exporting raw ore.