Interview: Winston Chitando Minister of Mines and Mining Development
Fresh lithium discoveries and the establishment of new lithium mines by conglomerates have of late brought attention to Zimbabwe. This has sparked investor interest with many curious about how they can venture into mining in Zimbabwe. I Keith Sungiso (KS) spoke to Zimbabwe’s Minister of Mines and Mining Development Honourable Winston Chitando (WC) on a variety of investment-related topics in the Zimbabwe mining sector and this is how our interaction went.
Why should an investor invest in the Zimbabwe Mining Industry?
WC: Zimbabwe’s mining sector presents many competitive opportunities to different needs of diverse investors as a result of:
- The abundance of mineral resources;
- Availability of a highly skilled labour force that is willing to work;
- Attractive Investment Incentives;
- Functional systems:
- Investor-friendly Mines and Minerals Act – currently being amended to make it more competitive;
- Effective and efficient minerals marketing system;
- Responsive relevant Government Ministries and institutions;
- Progressive policies e.g. Ease of Doing Business and Rapid Results Initiative;
- Availability of good basic infrastructure – power, water, rail and road network.
KS Can a foreign investor own 100% of a mine in Zimbabwe?
WC: Foreign Investors are allowed to own 100% shareholding for mining operations in all minerals except Diamonds. Investors in diamond mining shall approach any one of the four approved companies for joint venture arrangements.
KS: How much lithium do we have in Zimbabwe and are there still more opportunities for investors interested in lithium mining?
WC: Zimbabwe has world-class lithium pegmatite deposits at Bikita, Kamativi, Sandawana, Beryl Rose, Benson, Goromonzi and Bepe. With a reserve of 12 million tonnes, Bikita is the largest petalite deposit in the world. There are a lot of opportunities for Investors interested in lithium mining.
KS: What are the procedures for parties interested in importing lithium (processed or otherwise) from Zimbabwe?
WC: The importation of processed lithium can only be done under a relevant export permit or licence which is issued by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. The export of unbeneficiated lithium from Zimbabwe to another country is banned.
KS: Zimbabwe has the largest resource of lithium in Africa and the has the fifth largest in the world. What measures is the country taking to promote investment in this sector, especially in light of the green transition?
- The government of Zimbabwe facilitates investment in mineral beneficiation for the processing of manganese, lithium, nickel, cobalt, and graphite to produce battery-graded material for the manufacturing of cell components.
- In December 2022, Zimbabwe banned raw lithium ore exports to minimise the economic potential of artisanal mining and encourage investments in state-approved production facilities.
- The government of Zimbabwe is amending the regulatory framework that is the Amendment of the Mines and Minerals Act and crafting of the Minerals Development Policy. This helps create an enabling environment for investment in green minerals.
KS: What other clean energy minerals is the country seeking to develop?
WC: Zimbabwe is seeking to develop other clean energy minerals such as oil, coal bed methane and natural gas.
KS: In light of all this, what is the Ministry’s position on fossil fuel resources (hydrocarbons), which the country is still having in great abundance?
WC: Fossil fuels are open for investment in accordance with part XX of the Mines and Minerals Act of Zimbabwe. Potential Investors interested in a prospective area as long as it is open to pegging can make an application to the Mining Affairs Board. Investors must show proof of Value Addition Plans.
KS: What is the country’s general policy on engagement with foreign investors (international relations) in the energy sector?
WC: Zimbabwe is open for business in the energy sector. Potential Investors must go through ZIDA for licensing and guidance on further processes.
KS: Zimbabwe has just assumed the Chairmanship of the KPCS for 2023. How would you characterize the level of readiness of the country to discharge its leadership mandate successfully during its tenure?
WC: Zimbabwe is ready to lead the KPCS and we have taken steps to ensure the success of the chairmanship. Zimbabwe conducted bilateral meetings with all the KP working groups and Committee Chairs as well as the World Diamond Council and Civil Society Coalition. This was done as a way to share ideas on challenges and opportunities for the Kimberley Process during the year 2023. As the KP Chair, Zimbabwe called for a KP Chairs Strategic Meeting from the 11th to the 13th of January 2023 to formulate work plans for the year ahead. This was conducted successfully and well attended by all Working groups and Committee Chairs. Additionally, the Kimberley Process Administrative Unit was established at the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to focus on the Kimberley Process Chairmanship of Zimbabwe to ensure the mandate is successfully carried out.
KS: What opportunities does this chance offer Zimbabwe to develop its diamond mining industry framework and performance?
WC: The KPCS is a global body created under the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/56. It is responsible for the eradication of conflict diamonds from the global trade in diamonds. The assumption of the KP Chairmanship is a positive step and a vote of confidence in the Zimbabwe mining industry. The diamond market is sensitive to the perceptions of the origins of the mineral and as such Zimbabwe will benefit in a positive market perception of our diamonds. Leading the KPCS presents an opportunity for the country to have an impact on the global diamond market.
The diamond sector in Zimbabwe will grow significantly from the opportunities that the Chairmanship of the KPCS will present to the country. The attainment of a USD 1 Billion diamond sector economy is well on course with the KP Chairmanship definitely going to help in the attainment of the target.
KS: For the last two years, there has been increased interest in Zimbabwean resources from the international community. Why has this been so?
WC: The coming in of the 2nd Republic has seen the Mining Sector grow significantly. Zimbabwe was nominated for improved mining jurisdiction by the Mines and Money London Outstanding Awards in 2022. This recognition buttresses Zimbabwe as one of the best mining investment destinations in the world.
KS: The government seems to have taken a path of prioritising mineral beneficiation. Is this only open to Mineral producers (miners) only?
WC: Mineral Value Addition and Beneficiation is expected to play a key part in the Mining Sector’s role in driving economic recovery and transformation in the implementation of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and attainment of the country’s Vision of an Upper Middle-Income Economy by 2030. Value Addition is not only restricted to miners, Investors are welcome to set up value addition and beneficiation facilities in Zimbabwe.
KS: The work to produce a national development policy has been long drawn, with the first draft produced in 2013. Investors are keen to see this document finalized. What progress has the Ministry made in finalizing this important document?
WC: The Draft Minerals Development is now in place. The next stage is stakeholder consultations. This is in line with the mantra of the 2nd Republic of leaving no place and no one behind.
KS: What are some of the progressive provisions we are likely to see in this document which will enhance the country’s attractiveness as a destination for mining investment capital?
WC: Some of the Provisions in the Policy include:
- Responsible Mining Initiative
- Mining Title System and Administration
- Mineral Resource Governance
- Sustainable Investment
- Gender, Youth in Mining and People with Disabilities Environmental
- Stewardship And Social Responsibility
KS: How soon could we see the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill become law? What will be the positive impacts of such a development on the investment environment in the mining sector?
WC: The Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill is now awaiting gazetting. The remaining processes are expected to be finalized in the first half of 2023.
KS: The ASGM sector in 2022 did exceptionally well despite challenges in accessing loans to boost production from financial institutions. Why is this so and what can be done to increase confidence in the Small-scale industry?
WC: The ASGM Sector is performing very well due to growing linkages with the Government. The following strategies can be done to increase confidence in the small-scale industry:
- Provision of the legal and institutional framework for the ASGM sector.
- Increase gold deliveries to Fidelity Gold Refinery (Pvt) Ltd through timely payment for gold deliveries.
- Reduction in mine-related accidents in the ASGM sector through extension service, inspection and training.
- Reduction in usage of mercury and mercury emissions through the use of mercury-free technologies.
- Capacitation of Special Interest Groups through the provision of mining sites, equipment and funding.
KS: Is there any expo or conference that’s held in Zimbabwe to promote the mineral resources Zimbabwe has to offer?
WC: A number of conferences are scheduled to take place in 2023 to promote the mineral resources in Zimbabwe.
- Inaugural Africa Mining Summit: 20 March 2023
The Inaugural Africa Mining Summit will be held focusing on the theme of sustainable mining. The Summit will be conducted in a hybrid mode in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
- Mineral Value Addition and Beneficiation Conference: 21 May 2023
The major goals of the conference are to exchange experiences and techniques in mining and related fields and discuss methods to attract investment in the mining sector downstream and value-addition processes. The Conference will be held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
- Africa- Middle East – Asia (AFMEA) Conference: 12-16 June 2023
The AFMEA Conference is an international mining conference for both international and domestic investors. The conference’s goal is to create a global dialogue about mining sector development potential. The conference is set to be held in Victoria Falls with mining industry stakeholders from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
- Zimbabwe Mining Indaba: 5 November 2023
The main objective of the Indaba is to bring together players in the mineral business to discuss potential investors’ expectations as well as methods to invest in and develop the mineral sector in order to harness its economic potential with particular attention to the national legislation.
KS: What progress has been made with the Mining Cadastre and has this improved our title management system significantly?
WC: The Mining Cadastre Information Management System commenced with a pilot phase in Manicaland Province which saw the completion of system designs and configurations of the prototype system. The application has been developed and currently undergoing testing. The Mining Cadastre Information Management System is expected to be operational by Quarter 1 2023.
There are so many misconceptions about Zimbabwe as an investment destination. Which one would you say is the most misleading or disappointing?
The misconceptions about Zimbabwe as an investment destination are misleading to potential investors. Zimbabwe is one of the leading investment destinations in the world. Zimbabwe is open for business for all Investors.
KS: Due to the abundance of mineral resources across Zimbabwe more and more Zimbabweans are developing an interest in mining what are your thoughts on introducing mining as a subject from the primary school level?
Mining is one of the pillars of the economy of Zimbabwe. In my view, mining studies must be introduced at primary school level. It is very important to teach mining at this stage in other to catch them young and lay a solid foundation to inculcate in the pupils’ emerging skills.
KS: Some small-scale miners feel side-lined in the lithium revolution. Are they being side-lined?
The small-scale miners are not being sidelined in the lithium revolution. They have proved to be an asset in other sectors of the mining industry and they can prove their worth in lithium.
KS: The USD12 billion mining industry by 31 Dec 2023 deadline is less than a year away. Will Zimbabwe achieve this momentous target?
The Mining Industry remains on course towards the attainment of a USD12 billion Mining Industry by 2023. A number of key projects are expected to come on stream in 2023 including Tsingshan Consolidated Mining and Value Addition Project, Sabi Star Lithium Mine, and Arcadia Lithium Mine, amongst others. These will contribute immensely to the target.