The central issue of harnessing our natural resources into profit and setting out fundamentals
By Tendai Immanuel
It is a public secret that given the economic turmoil in Zimbabwe right now most people will gladly accept an opportunity to dissociate themselves from this beautiful country.
I have come to understand that many of my countrymen are not quite aware of the blessing that we have, to belong to a nuturally beautiful and mineral rich nation like Zimbabwean.
It is also painful to note that most of the young Zimbabweans are not even aware of what they are sitting on, what we have in terms of natural resources and what it means.
There are so many natural resources available in Zimbabwe in abundance, but most of the information that we have in the country in terms of our natural resources is not readily available. However, be as it may, it is an honour to be Zimbabwean especially now.
The view of Jack Makate
This was echoed by Jack Makate who went on to say he was thankful to those who have safeguarded the natural resources of Zimbabwe.
The people who stood firm to protect Zimbabwean resources with pride and honour are the reason we still have a wealthy resource that we can exploit for the betterment of our nation.
As a nation we have failed to comprehend what we have and how to exploit what we have to sustain ourselves and future generations to come. We have gold, gas, coal, diamonds, iron, chrome and platinum just but to name a few. Every province or every square inch of Zimbabwe has natural resources under it.
Zimbabwe has a very big, otherwise, untapped methane coal belt stretching from Mberengwa, Sengwa up to Hwange which is among the biggest in the world. Exploitation and investment into this methane coal belt means that as a nation we will certainly have a surplus in terms of energy which can even be exported.
This will not only improve productions in our industries from a steady and cheap supply of power but will gunner extra revenue from exporting the surplus while creating employment along the value chain.
Proper sustainable exploitation of this natural resource will significantly change the face of the economy in our country. We are talking of just one natural resource without even mentioning diamond, gold and platinum.
A rich conversation with Jack Makate an upcoming mining mogul, one of the Directors of Vuti Quarries provided some brilliant insights about our country.
Most of our diamond mineral is untapped
Jack said it is intriguing to note that the world says 25% of the world’s diamond is lodged in Zimbabwe. Citing also the recent discoveries of more rare earth minerals in the country, Mr Makate said: “What it means is that we should be a better country compared to most European countries in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but most of these diamonds and minerals are untapped”.
It now becomes a matter of having a sustainable model of resource utilisation. Sustainability and sustainable development is quite a comolex concept.
The first port of call in resource utilisation is investment. While most African countries are globe-trotting looking for foreign investment, the best would be to have local investors participating more in natural resource exploitation.
While foreign investment may be a shot in the arm, it may come with stringent conditions which may make it difficult to continue with business for long.
Home grown solutions should therefore become a reality, instead of making noise about home grown solutions without action. Hence action is also a part of sustainable utilisation of natural resource. We should all learn to talk less and act more if Zimbabwe is to become the economic giant it must be.
Utilising proper mining structures Zimbabwe
Utilising proper mining structures Zimbabwe could really be the Europe of today but unfortunately we have thus far shown a lack of the right attitude coupled with the lack of constructive deployment of knowledge and skills as Zimbabweans. This has been mostly attributed to by our education system.
The education system was designed to churn out employees not employers.
However complaining about the education system is not the solution, lest we drown in the complaining and finger pointing syndrome, at some point we have to put our hands to building.
It is high time we innovate around our problems and change course. We need to start looking at making sure that our resources create employment and development within our borders.
This can be done through value addition and processing within Zimbabwe, instead of shipping ore or unprocessed materials out of the country bolstering employment and economic growth in other countries.
The big monster in the country is lack of innovation and relentlessness. We have the skilled people, albeit with a few reorientation touch ups needed. Apprenticeships, internships and graduate trainee programmes aimed at reconfiguring the thinking process can be designed. This will allow us to harness human capital and develop further as a nation.
Digging a tunnel right to the Indian Ocean
You might have heard a few years ago that there was an Indian company that proposed to our government that they were going to mine iron ore in Chivhu.
They were going to dig a tunnel right to the Indian Ocean so that they would pump it straight to the sea instead of going through all the other logistics of passing through South Africa or other countries.
One would ask, why would the Indian company want to invest all that much to put a tunnel that would pump the iron ore straight into the ocean if there wasn’t enough resource to take them over 50 to 70 years?
And would they not encounter other unsanctioned minerals in digging the tunnel and secretly exploit them? Nevertheless , information out there says iron ore deposit at Chivhu can last up to 150 years of daily mining 24/7, and that iron is yet to be tapped into.
It all goes back to the issue of harnessing our natural resources into profit and setting out fundamentals. We have emeralds from Mberengwa to Mutoko, and it’s all emeralds which are substituting the high value diamond and gold in the market because of the next generation technology now available for polishing and cutting.
Mining, development and investment policies that favour the expansion of local industry are a necessity.
Time we shift our development approach
This article is aimed at trying to point out that as a country we have enough resources to compete with the rest of the world on the economic front.
However exploitation models which foster the development of the communities around the resources while feeding and stabilising the main stream economy are the ones lacking.
There is great need to introspect on how to harness our skill and knowledge to tap into our resource base and create a future to look forward to, for the younger generation.
It is time we shift our development approach to one of cumulative sustainable development gains. Each resource drawn from the annuls of our nation must add considerable value to the stability and growth of our economy.
To achieve this we need to work towards real practical solutions like value addition. We can cut and polish granite,emeralds and diamonds within our borders which is a sound economic booster on its own.
We should at this point be able to say with confidence, gone are the days of Rudd Concession and aid dependency which is arguably just as crippling.
Our strength as a nation is locked in our land either that which is drawn from above ground in agriculture, that which is mined from under it or the invaluable people who rely on it.
At a SAIMM conference held 03 August 2017 the mining sector was said to employ over 45 000 people formally and more than 500 000 informally and these figures would certainly self inflate if value addition was being done in the mining industry, or any other industry like agriculture.
Article was written by Tendai Immanuel the CEO of Triumph Africa using responses by Jack Makate one of the Directors of Vuti Quarries. Tendai is involved in philanthropy and sustainable development work across Africa in countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi and Sierra Leone. She writes in her personal capacity and is contactable via email firstname.lastname@example.org
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