Geology and Mineral Potential

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Zimbabwe has a heterogeneous geology and is believed to have similar terrain with that which has yielded significant resources in Australia and Canada. The country is underlain by a core Archean Basement called the Zimbabwean Craton. The craton consists of granitoids, gneisses and schists with remnants of greenstone belts. The craton is bordered by the Limpopo mobile belt to the south, the Mozambique belt to the east, the Zambezi Mobile belt to the north and  the Magondi Supergroup to the north west. The craton is intruded by the north east trending Great Dyke, which is an ultramafic/mafic complex. In the north, north west and east of the country the craton is overlain by Karoo supergroup which is mainly composed of terrestrial detrital sediments  which are overlain by basaltic flows. Proterozoic and Phenerozoic sedimentary basins.

 

The gold and base minerals are known to occur in the greenstone belts as well as the Limpopo mobile belt. The Great Dyke is host to the platinum group of minerals (PGMs). . The Magondi supergroup is known to host copper associated with calcareous materials. The granitic terrain has pegmatites that host such minerals as lithium, tantalite, mica and others. While the Karoo Suppergroup is known to host the country's coal.

Base metals

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Nickel: Among the base metals exploited in Zimbabwe, nickel dominates in terms of value. National production only peaked at 12 000 tonnes annually in 1999, but current production has fallen significantly largely due the adverse prices as well as the effects of  retrogressive policies at play in the recent past. Production comes from several mines located on the greenstone belt and from PGM mining operations, as a by-product. With two operational nickel smelting and refining facilities, and favourable geological conditions for the existence of nickel deposits, investment into this area is encouraged. Nickel yields cobalt as a by-product.

 

Chrome: The chrome ore resource, mostly along the Great Dyke, is categorised as world class, and considerable value adding takes place as the ore is processed into ferro-chrome alloys before export. There is scope for further value addition. Although there is a high demand for raw chrome in international markets, Zimbabwe has adopted a policy not to export raw chrome in order to encourage  local beneficiation.

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Platinum Group Metals

The development of Platinum Group Metal (PGMs) mines dates back to 1969 when Union Carbide successfully undertook trial mining at Wedza, culminating into refined metals being sold. Prices then were not high enough to allow for sustained viability to be achieved. A number of exploration programmes and resource evaluation projects were undertaken since then and nothing of substance materialised until 1994 when Mimosa Mine started producing on a small scale. This was followed by the much-publicised BHP\Delta Gold joint venture for the development of the Hartley Platinum mine.

 

Despite the demise of the Hartley Platinum mine in 1999, the thinking in the minerals industry is that the PGM resource on the Great Dyke can be exploited viably with handsome returns, and investment plans continue to appear on  corporate agendas.

 

Zimbabwe considers the PGM resource to be an important aspect of the country's mineral development in the new millennium. Current platinum production is at 188 000 ounces per year. There are currently, two producing mines with a third at an advance stage of mine development. Five other platinum projects are at different stages of resource identification. In addition to gold, the platinum industry has the greatest prospect for immediate development.


Energy Minerals

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Coal: Coal has been the dominant energy mineral for Zimbabwe. The country boasts of vast reserves of coal particularly in the north-west and southern parts of the country. Wankie Colliery Company, the only coal producing mine at present, has adequate capacity to meet the country’s needs in terms of energy requirements for domestic heating, agricultural heating, industrial energy as well as power stations. However, the quality of Wankie coal in terms of sulphur and phosphorous content is not suitable for metallurgical purposes and therefore such coal is imported mainly from South Africa. Other resources are being evaluated to determine viability of establishing a new power station to meet the country’s growing requirements.

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