Zimbabwe minerals and their profitability
By Shelton Lucas
There are factors affecting the profitability of mining different minerals these are:
- Value of minerals per kg/ton
- Cost of extraction (stripping ratio)
- Density of minerals
- Scarcity (rare earth minerals tend to fetch more)
- Quality (base minerals are valued against the percentage of the contained metal in the ore). Precious and semi-precious are valued against the cracks and etc.
Zimbabwe boasts of many known deposits of precious, semi-precious, base and rare earth minerals including the following:
Precious metals – diamonds and alexandrite.
Semi-precious – amethyst and tomourline.
Base minerals – manganese and chrome.
Rare earth minerals-cesium and niobium.
Turning a blind eye on platinum, cobalt, nickel and lithium which are very profitable but not presently mined at small scale because of the huge capital outlay required from exploration to extraction.
These are profitable minerals to mine in a small or medium scale setup.
Gold is the easiest as an entry point into small scale mining because not much equipment is required. It is because of its qualitative nature rather the quantitative nature of base minerals. Equipment needed for gold are shovels, picks, and milling can be out sourced and later own your hammer mill, ball mill, round mill, or star mill for 90% recovery of gold through treatment of residue through cyanidation for optimum profit.
On average the price per ounce is US$1500.
There are few copper miners in Zimbabwe although there are over 70 known deposits in Zimbabwe. Mhangura is the extension of the copper belt from Zambia. The strip ratios for mining copper lies in the same range with manganese and chrome but copper is more valuable per ton of the 2. However, in Zimbabwe there no beneficiation plants as the case in Zambia, DRC and South Africa. By so doing our low-grade copper is almost useless in Zimbabwe and is very difficult to get high grades. In turn because of the cost of logistics to the beneficiation plants outside Zimbabwe it won’t be profitable. Normally the price of copper is determined daily bulletins from London Metal Exchange (LME).
On average price per ton is 50% price of LME X % of the contained copper content in the ore. Rejection normally at 10% content of copper.
Mostly it is mined in the northern part of Zimbabwe in the areas around Rushinga and Dotito. However, it is one of the rare base metals and it has problems when it comes to storage it’s affected drastically by weather pattens.
On average price per ton is US$90. Rejection normally at 38% content of manganese.
In its ore form is known as galena is one of the densest metals with one of the most dense metals with a high specific gravity. It is one of the main components in batteries. One ton bag full of galena can weigh 8 tons. Its profitability is attributed to its high specific gravity.
On average its price is 50% LME x % content of led in the ore. Rejection normally at 40% content of lead.
Zimbabwe has got the second largest known reserves of chrome in the whole world which contributes 12% of the world reserves. With a spital distribution phenomena along the 550km great dyke and off dyke. The chrome deposits along the great dyke is Strat formular and chrome deposits of dyke are pod formular or in serpentine belts. It one of the major foreign currency earners in Zimbabwe after gold and tobacco. However, there was a chrome export ban which led miners to be highly susceptible to predatory prices by the middlemen. There are 22 smelters in Zimbabwe wholly owned by the Chinese. Known deposits are along the great dyke and few off dyke which are under reservation and issuance of mining titles in form of special grants was indefinitely suspended. Zimasco owns half of the known deposits in Zimbabwe which is 6% of the world reserves. They were requested by the government to cede some of the claims in 2016 and they eventually ceded some barren claims. They are a difficult partner of small-scale miner often accusing them of encroachment, theft of ore and all sorts of corporate bullying.
On average its price is US$55 per ton. Rejection normally at 30% content of chrome.
It is sold in large quantities of not less than 50 000 tons but the cost of extraction is very low at an average of US$2 per ton because one single blast can produce about 10 000 tons. However, because of the quantitative nature of iron as a cargo it needs an efficient railway system. It is normally transported overseas through the port of Maputo since it is a bigger port than port of Beira which cannot handle bigger vessels that are normally used to transport iron. Normally it’s found in 2 types magnetite and hematite.
On average prices is US$20 per ton and rejection is at 66% content of iron.
To all those who have tried to buy mineral/metal ore from Zimbabwe and failed please take note of the following:
i. Zimbabwe is a landlocked country which means we have no seaport. This means it is difficult for miners to offer their products to you at Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) or sometimes even Free on Board (FOB) due to the cost of logistics involved.
ii. Letter of Credit as a mode of payment. Zimbabwe is under some economic sanctions and that will not work. Most miners prefer cash and carry or transfer
ii. Most miners are not familiar with International trade and its terms
iv. The SGS Reports you prefer are very expensive here and most miners do not want to waste their money doing lab tests for each person who comes on Facebook or WhatsApp and claim to be a buyer requesting a lot of requirements. They prefer buyers who come on the ground or send an agent on the ground to take samples and tests, when satisfied, sign a contract
v. To get an export permit, there must be a signed contract with the buyer and their details filled in the application form.
Shelton Lucas is a business strategist by profession with a bias towards financial intelligence. He is into chrome, tungsten, lead and copper mining and one of those who ignited the spark for copper mining interest in Zimbabwe in 2020. Lucas is the Chairperson for Chrome Miners Association.