Bianca Mlilo, Business Reporter
SMALL scale gold miners are expected to double their output to more than 12 tonnes in 2016 on the back of improved support from the ongoing formalisation exercise.
There are more than 600,000 small scale miners operating in Zimbabwe with combined figures of both registered and unregistered artisanal miners pegged at 700,000.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) chief executive officer, Wellington Takavarasha, said small scale miners produced 7,3 tonnes of gold in 2015, compared to three tonnes in 2014.
“We feel we’ve the capacity to double our output. As records show, we doubled up our production in 2015, which shows that it’s achievable,” he said.
While most small scale miners operate illegally there has been a notable increase in the sector’s output, currently at 10 percent of the country’s total gold output.
Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small Scale for Sustainable Mining Council president (ZASMC) Engineer Tapfumanei Murove said small scale miners were capable of contributing up to 50 percent of national gold output.
Scores of people are likely to be driven into gold mining activities this year due to economic hardships in the wake of drought.
“We expect the number of artisanal miners to swell and that in turn will mean more gold production,” said Murove.
The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and that of Small to Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development are working together to facilitate formalisation of artisanal mining.
The exercise is expected to tame rampant gold smuggling and enhance increased delivery of the mineral through Fidelity Printers, the country’s sole gold buyer.
In 2014 the police intercepted more than 20kgs of gold being smuggled out of the country while 180kgs was intercepted from illegal panning sites.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, John Mangudya has recommended that gold possession by artisanal miners be de-criminalised as an incentive for improved production and formal trade in the mineral.
Last year Zimbabwe generated $684,4 million from gold exports with small-scale miners accounting for more than $273 million.