By Julias Muguwe
Once again I write in my capacity as a Competent Registered Geoscientist with SAIMM-(South African Institute Of Mining and Metallurgy), A fellow of the Geological Society of England (GEOSOL) and a competent person with SACNASP ( South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions).
“It is imperative for the nation to understand why I say mining alone can change the Zimbabwean economy. I will elucidate in my next write ups the basic geology and general mining knowledge that the nation needs to understand about Mining in Zimbabwe, with particular emphasis on the Great Dyke. The Great Dyke is a naturally god given linear geological feature which is about 550kms trending north-south across Zimbabwe and does play host to vast ore deposits including gold, copper, nickel, silver, chromium, asbestos and Platinum Group of Minerals (PGMS). Thereafter I will talk about the Chiadzwa Diamonds and Gold deposits”.
I write this with a heavy heart. My second job after graduating was as a Projects Geologist for Hwange Colliery from 1993-1996 after leaving Shabanie and Mashaba Mines (1992-1993). Hwange Colliery was one of the star mines in fact it was amongst the top 3 big ones.
During my stay there, I was responsible for exploration in and around the mine. I managed to delineate and delimit the extent of Hwange coal seams both opencast-able and underground mineable. The life span of the mine was extended by more than 40 years through my work under the supervision of Resident Geologist Mr Maponga whom I am told is now a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.
Former deputy minister Freddy Moyo was the Mine Manager, the late Kudzayi Ibwerinofa was the MD, and Mr Rugare Gumbo was the Human Resources Manager. This was the beginning of the political mess at Hwange. I am not surprised that such a venture was and has been milked to the extent of failing to pay employees with such a vast reserve base.
For your own information I drilled in the Hwange Game Reserve where we would encounter lions in the mornings at our drill rigs. I would like to state that there are underground coal seams 3-6 metres thick as logged by myself, of which I did not even know the limits beyond the game reserve.
What I concluded was the deeper they got the better the grades in terms of ash content. The Hwange Colliery debacle involved among other issues a transport supplier harassing and intimidating a board chair using the Presidents’ office in the new dispensation.
This was just an annex of the numerous political disasters that have crippled the mining Industry. My fellow geologists, especially the ones who have had opportunities to practice outside Zimbabwe had hoped that one day, we will be back to impart and use the experiences and exposure gained outside the Zimbabwean borders in our motherland, but that now appears remote as appointments are done on partisanship. The levels of corruption in mining are beyond repair!
I still don’t understand how Hwange Colliery was destroyed, but if you look at the management mentioned above, it was a partisan management and my heart bleeds to know that a company like Hwange Colliery is being threatened with administration.
Whilst some of these appointees have the professional qualifications, they do in the end jeopardise their integrity as most decisions are made on political grounds, benefitting a few at the expense of the nation. The following questions do then arise from all this:
(1) Do we have the right people in the Mining industry at the top in Zimbabwe?
(2) Are all these so-called mining deals and ventures benefitting politicians or the nation? It is very interesting to note that when diamonds were discovered at Chiadzwa and Marange our government and the army went in like vultures. No ongoing exploration and reinvestment plans were put in place as soldiers and police suddenly became mining engineers.
No feasibility studies were fully conducted. If we do not know how much diamonds were there initially, how much were mined and how much are still in situ how did we come up with a US$15 Billion loss? This may still may still be speculative, could even be more.
When the weathered sub-surface was all mined they got stuck with the hard conglomerate, which they found difficult to mine without using proper blasting and recovery techniques. This was now beyond the military man’s capacity. Geomechanics and structural geology is not a subject studied at a military academy. That was a dead end and the nation was told diamonds are finished.
Where is the proof? What we have is proof that the mining industry is being run by people with no idea, not good enough technically. People running this ministry have no track record of even managing a green field project to full production. Have never managed a feasibility study to production neither have they defined a resource.
So many blunders have been made in our mining.ie BHP Minerals. PGMs (Platinum Group of Minerals) were mined even though the layman only knew that Platinum was being mined. For the layman some of the minerals are as listed, platinum, palladium, thorium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and as well as nickel, cobalt copper and gold.
Platinum (PGMs), gold, copper and Nickel were mined by BHP minerals during their short stint. It might as well be a tall order to know exactly how much of the Great Dyke minerals were actually exploited by BHP Minerals between 1995-1999.
Whilst BHP closed because of grade and ground instability issues leading to low production, I still believe if a proper geomechanics study had been conducted the closure could have been avoided. (a story for another day). These are few examples of how the mining industry is being thrown into a mess by being headed by men with little exposure or knowledge in mining.
We have a crop at the top in the Mining Industry that gets animated with signing of Exclusive Prospecting Rights by foreign investors, thereby politicising such ceremonies. This is why they end up flanking the president announcing fictitious oil discoveries.
This crop lacks the experience of coming up with better mining deals that brings about growth and development of the nation as well as improving the lives of all at large. The crop at the top does not think that minerals we are exporting are the ones we are also buying i.e. in the form of lithium batteries for example.
A crop that is harnessed in thinking, they don’t think beyond sinking a mineshaft. It is a crop that does not have vision of how economic geology and mining relates to other production sectors!
Where there is a mine potential they only see a corrupt line of making money through signing and via tenders and hence we end up with cartels in i.e. transport, mine suppliers etc. They don’t embrace economic Geology. We may be the largest coal producer but we have no electricity and yet using coal power can be generated.
We produce lithium but we still import lithium batteries, we have vast chrome deposits but we can’t even have chromium-plating Industries. We can’t make our own number plates for cars and street names. What a shame! How on earth does a big company like Rio close 3 mines on the basis of lack of forex and yet they mine the gold? It’s so sad this is where we are and all what we have.
As mentioned above I will talk about the Great Dyke Potential, the Chiadzwa Diamonds, oil discoveries and Gold Mining. Watch the space and smile, rocks are friendly!!
Julias Muguwe is the MDC UK and IRELAND Portfolio Secretary For Mines And Energy