Government is considering reintroducing a blanket ban on exporting chrome in its raw form following the progress made by some locally based investors in value addition.
The country is losing millions in foreign currency through exporting the unprocessed mineral.
Gweru based Chinese chrome smelter, Jinan corporation has set up five furnaces which purify raw chrome to carbon ferrochrome with the company now setting up a sixth low carbon plant to be commissioned before the end of the year.
In its raw form, chrome fetches US$100 a tonne which translates to around US$1 300 a tonne if refined to carbon ferrochrome and the figure might even double if the product is further refined to micro carbon ferrochrome.
Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Cde Polite Kambamura, who toured the Jinan low carbon plant which is still under construction hinted on government’s plans to ban raw chrome exports.
“We can now weigh whether to give a leeway or a chance for those players with raw chrome to export in its raw form so that we eventually ban completely the exportation of chrome in its raw form so that we can benefit locally. Because we can’t continue to lose revenue like we are doing. Instead of getting 1,500 we end up getting only 100 dollars a tonne,” said Kambamura.
Jinan corporation Deputy General Manager, Zhou Zhengquiao, says they have since diversified to mining lime and other products which they used to import as a way of reducing the country’s import bill.
“We have diversified and set up a lime plant in Bulawayo. We also have brick plant where our waste is recycled and we produce products needed for the local market as we intend to preserve the foreign currency. We are going into phase two of the projects and we are setting up a plant which is the first of its kind in the country,” explained Zhengquiao.
Government once banned the exportation of chrome in its raw form in 2011 to promote beneficiation of the product, a ban that was eventually lifted in 2015 after it was confirmed that the country did not have enough capacity to process the product.