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Zimbabwe is preparing to increase chromite exports

Zimbabwe is preparing to increase chromite exports

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Experts in the industry said Zimbabwe is preparing to significantly increase chromite exports from this year due to strong growth in chromite ore and ferro-chrome production.

Increased ferro-chrome output this year, projected to register 15 percent growth above 2018 production, is anticipated to result in 40 percent growth in chromite ore production compared to the same period last year.

Already, Zimbabwe has earned US$120 million from the export of chrome concentrates and lumps as well as high carbon ferro-chrome in the first four months of this year.

Zimbabwe Mining and Smelting Company (Zimasco) chief executive John Musekiwa told a recent mines conference that while Government's thrust of value addition will decrease chrome ore exports, it will, however, drive ferro-chrome exports.

"Phenomenal growth of the Zimbabwe chrome industry is possible, but (ensuring) low-cost production is key; we have the resource; the market is there; (however), smelting is energy intensive and electricity constitutes the highest production cost component in Zimbabwe," Mr Musekiwa said.

Currently, the highest level of chrome beneficiation in Zimbabwe is ferro-chrome production, but Government recently approved an investment by Chinese firm, Tsingshan Steel, which plans to invest over US$1 billion towards building a stainless steel production plant in the country.

Notably, as part of the roadmap of Tsingshan's stainless steel production in Zimbabwe by 2026, Afrochine, a subsidiary of Tsingshan (the largest global stainless steel producer) will expand ferro-chrome production going forward.

Chromium has no substitute in the production of stainless steel, which is the backbone for global economic growth, hence its global acclaim as a strategic commodity.

Being host to an estimated 12 percent of the global chromite resources and production currently contributing less than 3 percent to global output, the Zimbabwean chrome ore industry has significant potential for growth going forward.

Zimbabwe currently has 14 ferro-chrome operations concentrated mainly in the Midlands Province with the two largest players, Zimasco and Afrochine, operating medium sized furnaces while the rest utilise small furnaces.

Zimbabwe holds the world's second largest known chrome ore deposits, after South Africa. Global chrome ore resources are estimated in excess of 12 billion tonnes, according to Roskill Chromium Global industry Outlook 2018.

Chrome is one of the key minerals through which Government seeks to grow mineral exports from US$3,2 billion last year to US$12 billion from 2023 going forward, as the country gears up for upper middle income status by 2030.

Last year the mineral was one of the top six mineral commodities that contributed the bulk of Zimbabwe's export earnings along with the usual top performers platinum and gold as well as diamonds, nickel and coal.

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