Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT has directed state entity, Apple Bridge Investment, to buy all chrome supplied by small-scale chrome producers following complaints from the miners that they were being fleeced by private smelters who are buying the mineral below the market price.
The miners’ representative board, the Confederation of Chrome Miners Association, last week made startling revelations that some of their members have on numerous cases walked away with as low as $8 per tonne after delivering ore at private smelters in the Midlands province.
This is in sharp contrast to market prices, which are hovering over $60 per tonne, but the small-scale producers were having problems with the state buyer that was insisting on bigger parcels per delivery that the small-scale producers were, however, failing to meet.
The miners said they had been forced to turn to private smelters as the state entity was insisting on at least 250 tonnes per delivery that they, however, cannot manage.
“They (Apple Bridge) are saying they are paying around $60 but the miners should always report their concerns to us should they have any,” said Deputy Minister for Mines and Mining Development Fred Moyo. “The idea of creating Apple Bridge was to mop up all (delivered) tonnage 10 or 5 or any. So I am instructing them, they must buy all the product,” he said.
Confederation of Chrome Miners Association Secretary General Mr Antony Msipa, said the miners had been exploited for long by private smelters. “We have had cases of miners who have walked with just $8 per tonne after delivering their product to private smelters in Gweru,” said Mr Msipa.
“What was happening is they (buyers) come to our claims and promise $55 per tonne, carry the product to their smelting plants, then when you get there they factor in transport costs and fines like breakages then end up paying $8.
“It then becomes difficult to continue mining because we pay $20 per tonne for labour. And turning to Apple Bridge (was) not possible because they were insisting on at least 250 tonnes per delivery,” said Mr Msipa.
The chrome sector has been on a rapid rebound especially after the ceding of vast chrome deposits by Zimasco and ZimAlloys to miners who had been exploiting the resource under tributary arrangements.
According to the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe figures, chrome production has jumped from 15 000 tonnes of ore in the first five months of 2016 to 173 000 tonnes for the same period this year. But Government has had to contend with unending disputes in the sector ranging from disputes over claims, prices and a number of challenges.