24 June 2019

Zimbabwe: Mineral Database Will Stop Leakages

opinion

It is exciting news that Zimbabwe is sitting on a bountiful of 17 rare earth minerals, over and above the diamonds, gold, platinum, chrome and glut of other minerals we have already known.

The minerals, sometimes referred to as rare-earth elements (REE), some of which sell for more than US$1 000 a kilogramme, and have been known to investors, make Zimbabwe a strong alternative source market. The elements are used in the production of glasses, electronics, hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, microphones and speakers, among other multiple uses, raising the stakes for Zimbabwe on the global market.

Some REEs are used in the production of LCD and plasma screens, fibre optics, lasers as well as medical imaging. They can also be used in fertilisers and water treatment chemicals. In addition to being used to increase plant growth and productivity, the minerals have often been used as feed additives for livestock production.

This gives the minerals broader economic value and makes them very important in many ways.

According to President Mnangagwa, the REE deposits discovered in Zimbabwe would be the second largest after China. China alone contributes 30 percent of the world's REEs while the United States, India, Brazil and Australia, among others, contribute the rest, but in smaller percentages.

However, the discovery of 17 REEs in Zimbabwe, believed to be in Mashonaland Central, should push the Government to urgently explore the country for mineral deposits so that the country has a full inventory of the minerals we have.

While it is expensive for the Government to do an aeromagnetic mineral survey in the final end it is going to be the best investment for the country.

Once the country has a full inventory of its mineral resource base, it can deal with investors on real terms, knowing the main mineral in any venture and the sub-minerals or the off-cuts.

It is fact not fiction that some companies mining in Zimbabwe have been discovering other minerals and keeping the data to themselves, hence an upsurge in recent years of companies, trying to export ore. Once in their countries they have used superior technology to extract the other minerals at the expense of the country.

It is therefore critical for the country to invest in more detailed mineral deposits using the latest technology so that we know exactly what we are sitting on.

The second phase would be upping our game in terms of our technology. We need to understand the minerals and how they are mined and their processing. We also need to do value addition, if any, we need to maximise on them.

In order to hit the ground running we need a policy pronouncement on their extraction and marketing. We need Government directive on the percentage of joint ventures, if any.

It might not be wrong to suggest that Zimbabwe still sits on vast undiscovered minerals that can only be unlocked, when the country has established its mineral inventory.

Gone are the days when we can be cheated by outsiders. We should know our minerals, their value and where they are found. The more we know about our minerals, their actual location and amount, the better for the country.

Yes, it is expensive, but it is worth it.

Zimbabwe

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