The Resuscitation of Kamativi – Tin or other minerals?

The Resuscitation of Kamativi – Tin or other minerals?

Calvin Manika

Gerald Phiri (60) walks towards a grocery shop to sit on a wooden bench as he holds an empty beer container. For the past 20 years Phiri has been residing in a village near the Kamativi shopping centre and routinely going to the grocery store every morning when the shop opens. Phiri tries to recall his past life in many of his conversations with acquaintances, especially the former glory of Kamativi. But Phiri cannot forget one day in 1994 when he woke up to the bad news.

“We were urgently called at the mine. It was an emergency but we never knew that it was the end of our employment, at least all the workers from managers to the lowest. It was sudden and catastrophe to us and I believe a hard decision too for the company to arrive at as they needed business,” says Phiri.

Kamativi Tin mine closed shop in 1994 due to the fall of tin prices on the international market in 1988, a move which affected the whole tin mining industry worldwide. Despite six years of endurance, the fall of prices could not sustain the operations. The mine sent packing thousands of workers. The closure was a tragedy beyond the Kamativi community. It was a national drawback to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as it also affected investments in the tin value chain.

Awakening the Giant

In 2021 the Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development launched a roadmap to achieve US$12 Billion mining industry by 2023. After 28 years of no operations, Phiri and other people around Kamativi welcome the blueprint and think it is an opportunity for the resuscitation of the defunct Kamativi Tin mine.

“I believe that we can mine tin here and there are tin markets in the world. I think we need to properly invest in the Kamativi Tin Mine (KTM) and consider the best way of making it work again. There are many industries which require tin and I am confident that the mineral has a market,” says Phiri.

 Kamativi Tin Mine contains resources of Tantalum, Nobium, Tungsten, Lithium and Beryllium. According to a report by Dr K.C. Taupitz, a geologist who visited Kamativi Tin Mine on a technical visit in 1978, the Kamativi Mine lies within the Central African Tin Belt, and was historically the largest tin producer in that belt.

During its peak, Kamativi Tin Mine made Zimbabwe one of the biggest tin producers. Currently, the biggest producers of tin are China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Peru, Thailand, Bolivia and Myanmar.

The Use of Tin

Tin is a chemical element belonging to the carbon family. It is a soft, silvery white metal with a bluish tinge. Tin is widely used in the steel and electronics industry for plating steel cans used as food containers, in metals used for bearings, and in solder.

According to the 2021 Global Tin Market Report, Tin-plating of iron protects the metal from corrosion; tin piping and valves maintain purity in water and beverages; molten tin is the base for (float) plate-glass production. Tin oxide, in which tin is in the +4 oxidation state, is useful in making ceramic bodies opaque, as a mild abrasive, and as a weighting agent for fabrics. Tin fluoride and tin pyrophosphate, in which tin is in the +2 oxidation state, are used in dentifrices. Organic tin compounds act as stabilizers in certain plastics and as wood preservatives. Elemental tin is used, as dissolved by foods packaged in tin-plated containers and cooking utensils are not harmful.

Trading Economics, an online statistics hub say Tin increased 6,364 United States Dollars per metric ton or 16.38% since the beginning of 2022, according to trading on a contract for difference (CFD) that tracks the benchmark market for this commodity.

Tin Markets and Overview

Modor Intelligence, a global tin market monitor say the Tin market is segmented by Product Type (Metal, Alloy, and Compounds), Application (Solder, Tin Plating, Chemicals, and Other Applications (includes Specialized Alloys, Lead-acid Batteries), End-user Industry (Automotive, Electronics, Packaging, Glass, and Other End-user Industries), and Geography (Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe, South America, and Middle-East and Africa).

The tin market size was estimated at over 387 kilotons in 2021, and the market is projected to register a growth of over 2.5% during the forecast period (2022-2027). Tin dealers have been experiencing one of the most severe squeezes in the metals market ever, as Covid-19 spurs a surge in demand as supply falters.

“In the first half of 2021, demand for tin used in electronics surpassed supply, driving a more than 90% price increase on the London Metals Exchange. However, the market is expected to grow at a steady rate in the forecast period (2022-2027)”, notes an analysis by the Modor Intelligence.

Experts say Zimbabwe could invest in tin and reclaim its former tin mining status. Ernest Dube, the chairperson of Kamativi Early Settlers Development Organisation (a committee of former KTM workers), say the current economic depression facing the country needs more mining investments and more exports to boost the economy.

“Tin is still lucrative. The demand of tin in the modern era cannot be overemphasized. Also the shifting of focus toward the recycling of Tin is likely to create opportunities for the market in the years beyond the forecast period. Our government must also be up-to-date and study recent reports like The Global Tin Market,” says Dube.

Global Tin Market report published by Market Watch on the “Tin Market” covers the current status of the market including Tin market size, growth rate, recent developments, prominent players, market dynamics, and current competitive landscape. The report analyzes future opportunities, demand, growth factors, and forecasts the market assessing the strategies of the key players in terms of mergers and acquisitions, technological advancements, R and D investments. Tin Futures are available for trading in The London Metal Exchange (LME).

The Government’s Position

According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Zimbabwe Exports of tin ores and concentrates to United Kingdom was US$106 thousand during 2014 and US$124.23 thousand during 2020.  Regardless of the overwhelming information that tin is still on demand and the ores from Zimbabwe are huge, the government promised to re-open Kamativi Tin Mine in 2023, but, this time as a Lithium mine.

In 2015, a Chinese investor Beijing Pinchang promised a US$102 million deal to resuscitate Kamativi Tin Mine. The deal was marred by various commitment challenges with some of the issues spilling in to the parliament. Currently the government courted a new investor posed to inject capital and invest in $1.4 billion worth of lithium in the dumps at Kamativi. Kamativi will join other three mines mining Lithium. The other companies are Sandawana, Blanket Minerals and Zulu Lithium.

In September 2020 while addressing the parliament, Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development Polite Kambarami said Kamativi Tin Mine is under exploration of other minerals which can give confidence in investors.

“We are doing an exploration process at Kamativi, we are increasing the resource base so that by 2023 the mine will be opened,” said Kambarami responding to parliamentarians.

Lithium is expected to contribute US$500 million to the US$12 billion mining industry by 2023.


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