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Zimbabwe agrees to relax ban on chrome ore exports

Keywords: Tags  ferrochrome, ferrochrome ban, Gift Chimanikire, Obert Mpofu, Zimasco, Felix Njini

WINDHOEK, Namibia — Zimbabwe has agreed to allow exports of chrome ore and is working out methods for companies to export unprocessed ore, which is currently banned under the country’s laws, AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin has been told.

The government is considering either allowing companies to auction stockpiled chrome ore or granting exporters a two-year export window.

Relaxing the chrome ore export ban for another two years will attract a value-addition levy, deputy minister for mines and mining development Gift Chimanikire said.

The government would also need to build weighbridges at the Nyamapanda and Chikwalakwala border posts, which link landlocked Zimbabwe to Mozambican ports and were used by chrome exporters when the ban was last relaxed in 2008.

"The last time this ban was relaxed, a lot of chrome was siphoned out of the country through areas where there were no weighbridges," Chimanikire said, noting that funds raised from the levy will be used for building smelter capacity.

The government also might consider auctioning off its "quite substantial" stockpiles of chrome ore, mines minister Obert Mpofu said. "We could conduct auctions of stockpiled material by asking bidders who want to export chrome ore to purchase it at an auction," he said. "It is not something that will take long to consummate, and I think that is what is going to happen in the next few months."

Mpofu admitted that companies with smelting facilities can only handle feed from their own mines. "Chrome ore production far outstrips the processing facilities we have in the country. That is the challenge we are dealing with," he said.

Zimbabwe has limited ferrochrome smelting capacity, and the few operators in the country have either scaled down production or shut down completely, citing high electricity costs and low ferrochrome prices.

Harare, Zimbabwe-based ferrochrome producer Zimasco Pvt. Ltd., for example, scaled down production to 40 percent of its 180,000-tonne-per-year capacity in 2012, citing low prices.

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

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