Zim mineral ore grades down: Study

HARARE - Zimbabwe's average mineral ore grades decreased significantly last year on the back of lack of investment to develop the mining sector, a report has shown.

According to a Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines-sanctioned study released last week, mineral grade declined for gold and platinum while diamond remained flat with the average chrome grade improving.

“The average grade for the mining industry fell across most minerals from 2014 to 2015 due to possibly lack of investment in development (and exploration) over the years,” the report said.

However, the study said the majority of respondents expected the average grades to improve this year.

According to the study, the average gold grade closed the year at 3,4 grade per tonne (g/t) from 3,5 g/t in 2014 and 3,6 g/t recorded in 2013.

Platinum slumped to 3,39 g/t from 3,52 g/t in 2013 and 3,45 g/t in 2014. The average diamond grade remained flat at 0,75 g/t.

Chrome was the only mineral which posted a grade improvement to close at 40,48 g/t from 39,48 g/t  in 2014.

This comes as the country’s mineral revenue declined by seven percent to $1, 8 billion in 2015 as the country recorded a marked decrease in mineral output, according to the report.

Capacity utilisation in the sector slumped to 60 percent from 71 percent in 2014.

The steepest decline was recorded in chrome mining which slumped to 29 percent from 67 percent.

Coal miners closed 2015 at 20 percent capacity utilisation from 34 percent as the platinum sector continued to operate at full capacity.

According to the survey, all respondents operating below full capacity cited capital shortages as the major constraint, followed by shortage and high cost of power and high input costs.

“Only gold and platinum recorded growth in 2015, with the rest showing declines. Zimbabwe has over 40 minerals but only five — gold, platinum, palladium, diamonds and nickel account for 90 percent of revenue,” the report said.

Gold output rose 30 percent to 20 tonnes and platinum marginally gained by one percent to 12,5 tonnes.

Copper remained flat at 8,2 tonnes while chrome output fell 48 percent to 210 000 tonnes, the steepest decline.

Revenue realised from chrome decreased 47 percent to $21 million after recording a 48 percent decline in output to 210 000 tonnes, while diamond revenue was down 46 percent to $180 million following a 30 percent decrease in output to 3 360 carats.

Platinum registered a 23 percent decrease in revenue to $381 million while nickel recorded a 30 percent fall in revenue to $142 million after a three percent decline in output to 16 108 tonnes.

Revenue from gold sales grew by a fifth to $737 million.

The survey also showed that the value of mineral output also mirrored the decline in output, falling by 13,1 percent in 2015 due to low output and subdued price.

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