CONTROVERSIAL mineral dealer Henrietta Rushwaya wants President Mnangagwa to remove the ban on lithium ore exports, saying a stockpile of 2 million tonnes has built up since December.
Rushwaya says the viability of small-scale miners has been affected as a result. 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.
In a letter addressed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in which she addressed herself as “the loyal miner”, Rushwaya said: “The unexpected ban has prejudiced standing off-take agreements between miners and international buyers some of whom had taken loans from their respective countries to finance trade in these minerals.
“Some miners have found themselves stuck with huge stockpiles thus locking cashflows and affecting operations. Establishment of processing plants takes between six months to 12 months to commission.
“The current market for lithium is outside Zimbabwe and companies need to export the mineral to raise capital to build the plants. Livelihoods of small-scale miners involved in mining base minerals have been negatively impacted by the ban since the trading of the minerals was halted,” Rushwaya said.
She said the ban had prejudiced standing offtake agreements between miners and international buyers.
There has been a lithium rush in many areas across the country leading to many villagers and small-scale miners being prejudiced by politically connected players.
For instance, in January this year, more than 10 000 miners were evicted from Sandawana Mine, leaving stockpiles of lithium ore, which the company promised to buy in principle, but left them empty handed without any compensation.
Some of the affected miners in Mberengwa were captured on audio recordings accusing an unnamed son of the First Family of looting thousands of tonnes of the raw mineral.
Rushwaya has in the past been mired in controversy.
In June last year at the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe’s annual meeting held in Victoria Falls, she made a shocking plea to the Zanu PF government to repeal a piece of legislation which criminalises the possession of gold without a valid licence, in order to ramp up output.
That time, Rushwaya was facing charges of attempting to smuggle six kilogrammes of gold at Robert Mugabe International Airport in 2021.
In terms of the law, Fidelity Printers and Refineries is the only entity mandated to buy the yellow metal on behalf of the government. Although licensed third parties can buy gold, they are then supposed to sell to Fidelity Printers.
Rushwaya said the move would help small-scale miners, who account for more than 50% of export earnings.
“With regards to growth prospects, we are requesting for the repealing of the Gold Trade Act especially Section 3 up to Section 12 which mostly talks about the criminalisation of gold possession without a valid licence,” Rushwaya said last year as reported by The NewsHawks.
During the meeting, Rushwaya also asked Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to speed up reforms to formalise artisanal mining in the country and accused the Attorney-General’s Office of being lethargic in its operations.