FIRMING commodity prices on the international market have prompted the Zimbabwean government to intensify efforts in seeking US$5 million to fund the exploration and restart of the mothballed Mhangura Copper Mines (MCM) which halted operations at the turn of the millennium due to weakening prices among other factors.
Currently, gold, platinum, ferro-alloys and nickel constitute the majority of the country’s mineral exports (comprising some 60% of the total value of exports in 2020), but the government aims to increase production of other commodities, including copper.
Official data from the country’s investment agency show that MCM requires US$5 million for copper exploration on a reserved area covering 325 000 hectares . The reservation, the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency says, also hosts semi-precious stone deposits (beryl, aquamarine) and gold.
Mhangura Copper Mines Limited, a subsidiary of Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, operates copper mines in the Makonde district north of Harare, Zimbabwe. The company also operates a smelter and electrolytic refinery in the district which has already resumed operations.
Jenfan Muswere, the acting Information minister, this week told a post-cabinet Press briefing that a local investor is seeking funds to kickstart exploration works in Mhangura.
“The nation is informed that government has engaged Scout Aerial Africa (Pvt) Ltd, a local company, for an aeromagnetic survey, production of a drilling programme, drilling plans and a map indicating potential zones to mine within the Shackleton claims and Mhangura extension,” Muswere said.
“The results of the aeromagnetic study will produce a feasibility study and increase investor confidence in further developing the mine. Scout Aerial Africa (Pvt) Ltd will source funding required for this project and will recoup its investment from the investor who will be contracted later by government to undertake mining operations.”
The unplanned closure of the mine, which has spawned a ghost town, has had a social and biophysical impact on local communities.
At full operational capacity, the mine employed 1 500 full-time workers in its mining section, that is exclusive of departments such as sanitation, security and other services. This was later scaled down to 800 at the time the mine closed. Its local economy revolved around the extraction and milling of copper with a scarcity of local backward and forward industrial and commercial linkages.
Following its closure, local banks such as Barclays, which was later renamed First Capital Bank, Standard Chartered, CBZ, a local hotel and a couple of high order retail shops had no choice but to withdraw their services from the settlement.
Due to bankruptcy, MCM was delisted from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange during the year of closure.