Exporting unprocessed granite is now banned unless authorised by the Minister of Mines and Mining Development as part of the process to add value to Zimbabwean mineral exports.
Granite, usually black granite, has been exported for many years, but until very recently was exported as large blocks, almost cubical in shape, for cutting and polishing elsewhere.
Zimbabwe now, following investment into the industry, has the capacity to cut and polish slabs and tiles before export.
Statutory Instrument 127 of 2022, the Mines and Minerals (Prohibition Order of Exportations of Unprocessed Granite) Notice, 2022, was gazetted by Mines and Mining Development Minister, Winston Chitando on Saturday in terms of section 3 of the Base Minerals Export Control Act.
However, pre-existing valid contracts for the export of unprocessed granite will be allowed to continue until they expire, which will give many in the business time to set up their cutting and polishing operations within Zimbabwe or hire others to do this.
The ban is backed by fines and even jail terms for offenders, although considering that unprocessed granite comes in multi-tonne blocks smuggling will probably be exceptionally difficult.
The fine will be level 9 or twice the value of granite involved, whichever is larger, with the possibility of a jail term of up to two years.
President Mnangagwa has been pushing for local processing before export to triple the value of the exports.
He said Zimbabwe was earning US$4,5 million from the export of an unprocessed block of granite when it could earn up to US$12,9 million if cut, polished and packed.
Granite earns about US$100 million a year in total exports but with more extraction and more processing that could reach US$500 million.
Granite is mainly extracted in Mutoko and Mt Darwin districts and is exported to countries that include South Africa, Italy, Australia and Belgium where buyers cut and polish to order.
Part of the Government strategy to push mining to a US$12 billion target by 2023 is not just mining more but adding value through local processing.
Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines chief executive officer Mr Isaac Kwesu said the businesses in the granite sector were willing to implement Government’s policy, but might require more time.
“We fully understand Government’s position on value addition and beneficiation and even our members in that sector are also willing to implement that.
“However, their position is that they need more time and an agreed roadmap to harness resources towards that,” Mr Kwesu said.
Any further time required after existing contracts have been concluded would probably require Minister Chitando to be convinced there was serious movement in processing before he used his authority in the new regulations to give ad hoc permission for export orders of unprocessed granite.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Mr Takunda Mugaga said the SI was justified.
“The recent move to criminalise the export of unprocessed granite on the surface of it is welcome, is justifiable and its economic but also it could also expose the lack of passage of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill,” he said.
He said the promulgation of the new Mines and Minerals Act would deal decisively with the issue of value addition while the criminalisation of exporting raw granite could result in smuggling of the mineral.
Indigenisation activist, Ms Thandiwe Ndlovu welcomed the stance taken by Government.
“We are losing millions as a country through exporting unprocessed granite. Apart from the monetary losses, exporting unprocessed granite is also tantamount to exporting jobs to other countries,” he said.
Economic analyst Donald Muyengwa echoed similar sentiments saying it was important that the country benefits more from its minerals.