Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
THE country’s gold sector remains bullish with miners yesterday pledging to produce up to 100 tonnes of the yellow metal annually if given adequate support by Government.
Speaking during a gold mining conference organised by Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR) in Bulawayo, the miners said the 100-tonne target was not only ambitious but achievable.
They demanded improved efficiency when receiving payment for their deliveries among a chain of incentives they said will enhance the mopping up of gold in different mining zones across the country. While they appreciated receiving 70 percent of their payments in foreign currency, the miners complained about delays by Fidelity in depositing the remaining 30 percent into their bank accounts. They said this tempts some to resort to the parallel market, which tends to externalise the resource.
Some miners suggested that the 10 percent export incentive given to them by the central bank was no longer valuable enough given the distortion of bond notes value and the black market premiums in relation to hard currency.
Others demanded that all payments for deliveries be made in cash saying many artisanal miners who produce small quantities of gold do not have bank accounts. During the discussion, gold millers revealed that many informal gold producers without bank accounts were feeding the parallel market and appealed to Government to devise strategies of enticing them to deliver their mineral formally.
“There is a need to resolve the currency problem in the economy to deal with these things. If you combine these small quantities, they are part of the 100-tonne target but these small guys operate outside the formal banking system,” said one miller from the floor.
The miners requested increased working capital and equipment support. Some requested a waiver on duty when importing gold mining equipment in the same manner with the tourism sector. Others accused the banking sector of poor electronic services saying this was the reason why most miners are reluctanct to use digital banking systems as they are prone to delays or system failure.
Ms Kundai Chikonzo who operates from Filabusi said achieving the 100-tonne target should include harvesting gold input from those considered amakorokoza (illegal panners) who constitute a large number of gold producers.
“An effective payment system and good network will entice these to deliver their gold formally,” she said.
Small scale miners have recently taken over from traditional big corporates in terms of gold deliveries to Fidelity, the country’s sole buyer of the precious mineral. In the month of August 2018 alone, 3,92 tonnes of gold was delivered by both primary and small scale miners, according to official figures from Fidelity. Out of this total, small scale miners contributed 3,03 tonnes with large producers trailing at 0,98 tonnes. Overally, the past eight months have seen deliveries of 24,74 tonnes.
In his presentation earlier, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) principal analyst, Mr Dishoni Limbikani, said Zimbabwe was geared to surpass this year’s 30 tonnes gold target having already surpassed the 24 tonnes mark, which was achieved in 2017. The 30-tonne would be the highest since the country gained independence in 1980. The highest gold output the country achieved was 27,1 tonnes in 1999.
Mr Limbikani applauded the gold miners for contributing to economic growth through improved output, whose export was sustaining productivity in other sectors. He also stressed the need to curb illegal gold dealing.
“The 100-tonne target is doable, it’s achievable and probably we can be the top gold producer in Africa. If I am not mistaken we have got about 5000 claims and these should be used productively,” he said.
“We thank you for your contribution to the economy and encourage you to sell your gold to Fidelity as failure to do so means we are contributing to the demise of this nation.”
Head of gold operations at Fidelity, Mr Mehluleli Dube, reported that their Bulawayo centre had delivered 240kgs of gold in the month of August alone, and this was very significant. Through its subsidiary, Fidelity, the RBZ in 2016 established a Gold Development Initiative Fund (GDIF) to support gold mining operations in the country.
The fund has since been increased to $150 million with almost $100 million already having been disbursed. Fidelity has attributed the sharp increase in gold output to the funding support, which helped equip many miners and enhanced their capacity.
GDIF head at Fidelity, Mr Matthew Chidavaenzi, said with increase in gold output, Zimbabwe has to move from selling all its gold to building reserves as a store of value and backing for a local currency at the right time. Mining equipment suppliers and senior officials from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development as well as mining regulatory bodies attended the meeting.