A base metal may be distinguished by oxidizing or corroding relatively easily and reacting variably with diluted hydrochloric acid (HCl) to form hydrogen. Examples include:
Copper production has been declining in recent years because of the depletion of known reserves and low exploration expenditure levels. Current copper production is associated with PGM operations. It is believed that enormous exploration potential remains.
Iron Ore: The country has huge known iron ore reserves grading 40% Fe and above. Iron and steel production faced mixed fortunes in recent years. The challenges facing the steel works at ZISCO have impacted negatively on iron ore production. No iron ore production was realised in 2009. Priority currently lies in the rehabilitation of ZISCO as it will create upstream opportunities for iron ore production.
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
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.