NAM states must unite to add value to mineral resources

Non-Aligned Movement member states should realise that mineral value addition is a process in which no single country can go it alone without sharing ideas and expertise with others.

Francis Gudyanga
Francis Gudyanga

Team work was vital to ensure the effective beneficiation of mineral resources, Arun Kulshreshtha, the director and executive head of the Non-Aligned Movement Science and Technology Centre said in a recent interview..

He said the issue demanded wide research from member states in all corners of the world. “Member states should desist from focusing on the blame game against the so-called detractors. They should produce results and move on. Every country in the value addition business is a potentially fertile ground for research in this regard, be it the United States of America, India, Zimbabwe, Malawi or others,” Kulshreshtha said.

He was responding to questions from The Zimbabwean following President Robert Mugabe’s recent comments that some countries were not happy to see developing countries like Zimbabwe selling polished and finished gem products.

According to Kulshreshtha, the mineral processing and beneficiation process was demanding and full of pitfalls as it was a long and winding learning process.

Mineral extraction on its own demanded considerable expertise and equipment, he added.

The NAM’s Science and Technology Centre would only provide research services, training and advice as it was financially handicapped and could not fund the beneficiation process in member countries, Kulshreshtha said, revealing that the centre depended on member countries’ annual subscriptions, which were a mere pittance.

Member countries were advised not to give time frames to the expected huge profit margins as a result of the value addition ambition – as it could take anything from six months to decades before tangible results were realised, given the trial and errors involved in the process.

The Non-Aligned Movement is a 47 member club, 24 of which are African states. It’s Science and Technology Centre has conducted 65 International Workshops and provided six fellowships. It will soon introduce a Research Development Fellowship for Developing Countries.

Francis Gudyanga, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Technology, acknowledged that value addition was no mean task as it needed expertise and relevant infrastructure.

“Zimbabwe is endowed with 60 different mineral resources and is currently exporting raw materials at prices equivalent to a tenth of what would be fetched when the value addition factor is taken care of,” said Gudyanga, pointing out that value addition would enable mineral resources fetch a premium on global markets.

He said value addition would help create jobs and accelerate national development in line with the country’s economic blueprint, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.

Diamonds from Zimbabwe started entering the world’s largest diamond cutting and polishing centre of Surat from November 2011. This was after the international diamond regulatory body, Kimberly Process, had authorised their exports from the controversial Marange fields – where numerous illegal panners continue to lose their lives at the hands of state security forces and private security guards.

In July Zimbabwe auctioned nearly one million carats of its diamonds in Dubai. The country has huge piles of the gems waiting auctioning at the Dubai Diamond Exchange.

President Mugabe said recently the gems could change people’s lives if properly managed. “The country’s natural worth is the people’s possession not a few leaders,” said Mugabe, noting that the resources should contribute towards the realisation of the people’s rights to education, life, food and health. However, the industry is rife with corruption and patronage by state security forces, cabinet ministers and top government officials and he has taken no tangible steps to deal with this.

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