HARARE, March 13 Zimbabwe's mining output is
under threat because banks are delaying processing foreign
payments by up to three months due to a shortage of dollars, the
southern African country's mining chamber warned on Monday.
Mining generates more than half of Zimbabwe's foreign
exchange and should be given priority by the central bank when
making offshore payments, Chamber of Mines economist Pardon
Chitsuro told a parliamentary committee.
Zimbabwe introduced a so-called bond note currency, which is
denominated in U.S. dollars, in November in a bid to ease cash
shortages, but long queues continue outside banks while U.S.
dollars are slowly disappearing from circulation.
Some businesses, especially those importing goods, are
offering discounts on cash purchases in U.S. dollars, while
charging more for mobile or card transactions.
Mining companies need to import machinery and inputs such as
explosives and chemicals.
Importers say they are struggling to pay for goods abroad
because accounts held by local banks overseas have been depleted
of foreign currency.
"We have been facing a foreign payments gridlock with delays
of up to 12 weeks impacting negatively on production," Chitsuro
The world's two largest platinum producers Anglo American
Platinum and Impala Platinum have operations
in Zimbabwe, alongside local firms Bindura Nickel and
Hwange Colliery Company.
Bankers Association of Zimbabwe president Charity Jinya
acknowledged the delays, which she blamed on a lack of dollars
and depleted offshore accounts of local banks.
Last month, the central bank said Zimbabwean banks only had
enough cash in offshore accounts to finance about two weeks'
worth of imports.
Zimbabwe needs an average $430 million a month to pay for
imports, according to central bank figures for 2016.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Alexander Smith)