Aligning beneficiation with sustainability in Zimbabwe

by / Tuesday, 26 February 2019 / Published in Uncategorized

The calls for the wider implementation of mineral beneficiation have become louder across many developing countries.  The calls emanate from a consensus that there is an inherent advantage for mineral rich countries to establish internal capacity to process their minerals into semi-finished or finished materials.

The principal advantage of beneficiation is derived from the multiplier effect created by a broader scope of manufacturing and industry capacity. This consequently ignites economic growth. Notwithstanding the appreciation of the significance of beneficiation, it can be agreed that it is yet to develop and extend at the intended scale especially in Africa.  The reasons for this position are varied but chief among the causes is the adoption of policies, strategies, and initiatives that are not grounded in the solid analysis of economic sustainability.

In order to improve this position, policy makers need to re-align initiatives with domestic capacity, economic viability, and sustainability and implementation practicality. The rapid evolution of technology also requires policy makers to broaden strategies and align them to the trajectory of market and technology dynamics. In order to achieve the rewards of beneficiation many governments in developing countries need to go back to the drawing board and engineer radical solutions to take the cause to fruition.

Zimbabwe has adopted various local content and beneficiation initiatives over the last few years, some of these initiatives generally include the imposition of levies on the export of unprocessed minerals, the compulsory setting aside of product for domestic processing, the selective restriction of mining consumables that can be imported and the application of fiscal rewards for actions and strategies that support beneficiation and the use of local services and goods. Regardless of these efforts, beneficiation is yet to successfully extend in scope and capacity within the mining sector.

One such initiative of government was the 2010 Mineral Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe Regulations which provided for the setting aside of 10% of produce received from all diamond producers.  The intention of the regulations was to create a constant supply of diamonds for the local cutting and polishing industry to access.
Despite the best intentions the initiative failed to produce the desired outcome and consequently the sector has failed to grow as projected.

The lack of growth of the cutting and polishing industry in Zimbabwe is a result of many factors but the main challenges were lack of adequate capitalization and a weak policy framework that ultimately did not incubate the fragile inception of the sector.  The local cutting and polishing industry needs to be deliberately supported in order for it to access capital, technology and markets.  Botswana on the other hand has managed to establish a successful diamond manufacturing industry and key to their success was their ability to take advantage of the knowledge, skill, market access and industrial capacity of their principal investment partner De Beers.
In addition to this synergy, Botswana has considerable diamond reserves which comprise a high proportion of clear gem and gem quality stones. This unique geology enables the country consistent access to high quality stones and thus a quasi-sustainable basis for the creation of a cutting and polishing industry.

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Source: Mining Review -