Mining sector: Engine for economic stabilisation, growth

24 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
Mining sector: Engine for economic stabilisation, growth

The Sunday Mail

President E.D. Mnangagwa

Resumed Mining Entra Exhibition

Last week, the 25th Edition of our premier mining event, Mine Entra Exhibition, was held in Bulawayo, the City of Kings and Queens.

I was invited to officially open the exhibition after a two-year hiatus related to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

What was remarkable was that the exhibition resumed at all, and did so on a magnitude which belied the two-year disruption it had suffered. Both these bear testimony to the sheer resilience of our mining sector and those at the helm of it. We thank them all as a Nation.

Covid-19 upheaval

From 2017 when the Second Republic was inaugurated, until now, the global situation has been remarkably unstable.

Barely two years into the Second Republic, we were struck by the global Covid-19 pandemic. It turned our lives upside down. Even though we have made significant strides in defeating the pandemic, we are yet to return to normalcy, both nationally and globally.

Conflict in Eastern Europe

At the beginning of 2022 when we thought we were set to shrug off Covid-19, conflict broke out in Eastern Europe, triggering worldwide tremors.

That conflict rages on, challenging the world order as we have known it since the end of the Second World War.

The past four years have thus been seismic, putting a premium on change and adaptation as key watchwords to national survival.

Rearranging priorities

Amidst these dramatic changes, we have had to keep reshuffling our goals, our plans and our programmes as an Economy, and as a Nation.

Almost all our planning assumptions have been rendered nugatory, largely by exogenous circumstances. Almost all our priorities have had to be readjusted as we struggle to keep abreast of changing global circumstances.

Leading development theorists argue that a good measurement of economic resilience is gauged by how well an economy adjusts to exigencies by redeploying its factors of production to restore and achieve dynamic equilibrium with ever-changing circumstances.

Keeping the Economy running

With Covid-19, our challenge was ensuring wheels of the economy were kept running, but without endangering lives of our citizens.

Captains of mining, industry and commerce gave way to public health experts in writing rules governing the shop floor.

Tourism, which we thought would be a lead sector under TSP (Transitional Stabilisation Programme) and NDS1 (National Development Strategy 1), took a knock as global human movements and interaction froze under various quarantine regimens.

Even our signature infrastructural projects, which had taken off so spectacularly well, came to an abrupt halt, thus missing key timelines.

Yet we kept at the crest of the raging waves, thanks to the speed with which we responded and readjusted.

Priorities had to be reset; balances had to be struck, and resources had to be recalled from different sectors to which they had been assigned and committed before the pandemic.

Even at individual and family levels, lives had to be reordered to levels reminiscent of wartimes. Indeed, nations fared well or badly depending on the degree of their discipline. Happily, we fared remarkably well, even confounding our detractors who had written colourful obituaries for our Nation.

Growing in a shrunk world

Today, in the wake of the conflict in Eastern Europe, we face a situation of no less turbulence. The global order continues to fail as nations get more and more balkanised into confrontational camps. Global trade is in tatters; networks of global supply chains are virtually broken. If the digital age had made our globe a village, conflict, mutual hostilities and sanctions have restored barriers of ideologies, geographical time and space.

Again, Zimbabwe has to survive this new era of a shrunk and an unstable globe.

The story of a bird and a frog

A story is told of two animals which fell into a bowel of cream: a bird and a frog. Upon realising its wings were drenched in thick cream, the bird concluded all was lost. In resignation, it sank to the bottom and drowned.

Not so with the frog. Determined to live, it kept furiously beating and churning the cream with all its legs and might. Gradually, the cream thickened and coagulated into some solid lump, a process remarkably assisted by the reigning winter weather and of course the dead bird beneath. Before long, the determined frog sat atop a solid lump of hardened cream, shining and mopping its brow. Once it had recovered its breath, it jumped out of the bowel to rejoin the rest of the family.

Setting mining goals against scepticism

Our mining sector is the proverbial frog. When Minister Winston Chitando came to Cabinet with his target of US$12 billion mining economy by 2023, I was sceptical.

To my mind, this was a case of sheer exuberance by a youthful minister seeking cheap impression through hyperboles. The figures were staked against him. In 2017, when the Second Republic was inaugurated, earnings from the mining sector stood at a paltry US$2,9 billion, even then very shaky. Our total earnings as an Economy were below US$10 billion. We all wondered how things would change for the better so soon.

Remarkable upturn

Yet barely four years later, in 2021, the mining sector earned US$5,2 billion! Its earnings had nearly doubled in those four short years. As I write, the first half of 2022 has seen our earnings from mining at more than US$2,66 billion, up from US$1,9 billion achieved during the same period in 2021. This is a growth of more than 40 percent. A combination of growing export volumes and firming commodity prices internationally makes it quite feasible for us to creep towards a US$6 billion mark this year, which amounts to well in excess of 60 percent of our export receipts as an Economy. We continue to beat the cream!


Reopening old mines

The years between 2017 and now have been years of serious reorganisation in the mining sector. Old mines which had shut have reopened. Eureka, Shamva, Radnor, RioZim Cam and Motor Biox Gold Plant and lately Sinomine Bikita Minerals are some of them.

Expanding existing mines

Existing mines continue to expand their operations. These include Unki and Zimplats, both working in the platinum sector.

Unki’s total PGM production for the second quarter to June 30, 2022 has surged by 38 percent to 66 300 ounces, compared to the same period last year.

This phenomenal growth owes to the concentrator de-bottlenecking project completed in the last quarter of 2021, which increased concentrator capacity from 180ktpm to 210ktpm.

New mining projects

New mines are coming on stream, including in the gold, lithium, iron and platinum sub-sectors. Old minerals like chrome and coal which had been abandoned today have reopened in a big way, amidst new demand for them.

The three Es

Exploration continues apace, with new mineral deposits being discovered. Looking ahead, we have to concentrate on the three Es: Exploration, Extraction and Expansion of all minerals and mines.

To the three Es must be coupled greater Processing and Beneficiation/Value Addition. When all the five elements are pursued in equal measure and with greater intensity, we should be able to see our mining sector gallop past the US$12 billion mark. It can be done; it will be done, thus creating more jobs especially for our youths. This must be our focus, as we take full advantage of the unstable global situation to maximise our opportunities and earnings. Alongside Agriculture, Manufacturing and Tourism, we should be able to beat all odds, whether local or global.

Forging ahead

I am happy the gold sector continues to do well, always surpassing targets of previous years. I see on the horizon global changes favourable to this sector. Equally, I am happy the iron mining sub-sector is set for a dramatic comeback, what with the DISCO Steelworks gradually taking shape at Manhize. As this key project takes shape, it triggers forceful growth spurts in other mining sub-sectors and of course in the steel manufacturing sector itself.

Towards Vision 2030

Developments in Muzarabani give us even greater hope that our extractive sector will lead the charge towards our goal of an upper middle-income economy and, thereby, towards Vision 2030. As has been witnessed by our Nation, last week saw several investment missions visiting our country.

Equally, it saw a number of significant projects being commissioned. Zimbabwe is on the rise, thanks to our adeptness at restoring a dynamic equilibrium amidst all the global turbulences.

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