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Cablegate: Miners Still Glum

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

010835Z Mar 04

UNCLAS HARARE 000361

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/S AND AF/EX
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS
TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW
PASS USTR FLORIZELLE LISER
STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON

E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EMIN EINV ETRD PGOV ZI
SUBJECT: Miners Still Glum


1. Summary: Mining industry representatives told us the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)'s new monetary policy has
menaced their tattered businesses. Between an overvalued
zimdollar and overpriced electricity, they are barely
staying afloat. The GOZ still does not appreciate that
its 6-year recession will end only when miners and other
exporters enjoy a more hospitable business environment.
End summary.

2. Ambassador Sullivan held a roundtable on Feb 26 with
the chiefs of eight of the country's large mining groups.
The mining sector has been in rapid retreat since 1997,
with gold production falling from $268 to 150 million,
ferroalloys from $178 to 67 million and nickel from 71 to
39 million. Only platinum appears on the increase.
Roundtable participants represented African Associated,
Casmyn, Independence Gold, Rio Tinto, Zimasco, Zimplats
as well as the Chamber of Mines. Miners were keenly
interested in the U.S. take on Zimbabwe's political
stalemate and debated energetically among themselves
whether the sector should adopt a more overtly political
stance.

No room for profit
------------------
3. Miners, possibly Zimbabwe's purest exporters, complain
they still must surrender 25 percent of earnings for
exchange at the official exchange, just one-sixth of the
market rate. They convert the rest of earnings at the
artificially low auction rate. But before any of this
takes place, the GOZ demands a 15 percent royalty on
minerals extracted, regardless whether the firms net a
profit. Furthermore, the GOZ has raised the rate of duty
on imports by a whopping 73-fold since December 1. (It
used to peg import duties for miners to the former
official rate of Z$56:US$.)

4. Worse still, parastatal ZESA now compels exporters to
pay more for electricity than counterparts elsewhere in
the region. Heavy-energy consuming mining companies pay
an average of US 4.5 cents/KW hr, versus 1.7 in South
Africa, 1.8 in Namibia, 2.1 in Mozambique, 2.2 in Zambia
and 2.6 in Botswana. It appears the GOZ is trying to
subsidized retail customers by overcharging exporters.

Comment
-------
5. As we have pointed out before, only Zimbabwe's
exporters can lead a recovery. Until the GOZ allows
exporters to retain more of earnings, they will not
produce more. But even under RBZ Governor Gideon Gono's
more innovative monetary policy, the GOZ has not come to
terms with this. The Zimplats rep joked that a high GOZ
official recently expressed bemusement that platinum
output is rising while production of all other minerals
is plummeting. The Zimplats chief retorted, of course,
that only his company was exempted from the draconian
exchange requirements that affect the rest of the sector.
Invariably, the GOZ's shoots itself in the foot through a
stalwart habit of pretending the zimdollar is worth more
than the market determines. In mining, the stakes are
high. Given that post-land reform agriculture is still
in chaos, it is probably mining that will lead a
recovery, perhaps eventually displacing agriculture as
the country's main forex earner.

Sullivan

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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