ZimscoZimbabwe’s government says it will prescribe deadlines for chrome mining companies to release unutilised reserves this year with a target to reclaim 40 000 hectares of chrome-rich idle grounds.

Mines and Mining Development Minister, Walter Chidhakwa said in an interview on Friday that to date, 18 000 hectares had been released by Zimbabwe Mining and Smelting Company (Zimasco).

He said that the freed up ground would be given to other miners immediately to start extracting the mineral reserves, which it would reclaim again if the miners do not exploit the mineral.

“We got 18 000 hectares from Zimasco and are waiting for release of ground from ZimAlloys, we are targeting about 40 000ha (from the sector). Given that these are claims that are just sitting (idle), we will allocate them to other miners,” the minister said.

“The people who will be allocated these claims would be given on condition that they use them; if they do not, they will lose them. We are now working on giving them (miners) deadlines.”

The mines minister said ZimAlloys had been given time for internal consultation on the directive by Government that it releases part of the chrome-rich ground that it has not been working on.

He explained that repossessing unutilised chrome reserves would give Zimbabwe momentum in the exploitation of the mineral. Zimbabwe holds the world’s second largest deposits of chrome, which is smelted to produce ferrochrome, a raw material used in the making of stainless steel.

Government lifted a ban on raw chrome exports introduced two years ago, having also scrapped a 20% export tax on the metal, with the aim to boost earnings from this sub-sector.

The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development said it lifted the chrome ore ban after noting progress by ferrochrome producers to beneficiate the mineral. Government contends that sale of raw chrome will generate liquidity to fund miners’ working capital.

According to comments made by Minister Chidhakwa in 2015, Zimbabwe has more than 950 million tonnes in chrome reserves, which are mostly held by Zimasco, and ZimAlloys.

Mining contributes between 12% and 16% of the country’s gross domestic product while the sector contributes more than 60% of Zimbabwe’s foreign earnings. Mining is expected to anchor short to medium growth.

Against the background of depressed commodity earnings and marginal output gains from minerals such as gold and chrome, mining growth is projected at of 0.9% in 2017.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in his 2017 National Budget, that government remains focused on the mining industry regarding consideration and adoption of supportive interventions to ensure viability.

These include review and standardisation of Rural District Council fees and charges and further review of Environmental Management Agency charges and the tax regime.

-All Africa