Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE mining sector has failed to achieve the 24 tonnes target set by the Government for gold production in 2016.
Although figures of gold production from secondary producers are still to be released experts are of the view that it was unlikely the total deliveries would reach 24 tonnes.
According to statistics released by Fidelity Printers and Refiners total gold deliveries last year amounted to more than 21 439 tonnes falling short of the 24 tonnes target set by the Government at the beginning of last year.
The statistics revealed that primary producers (big mines) managed to produce 11 759 tonnes while small-scale and artisanal miners accounted for 9 680 tonnes.
Information from the country’s sole buyer further revealed that small-scale miners managed to produce more than the big mines in the last quarter of the year realising an output of 3 163 tonnes with the primary producers weighing in with 2 958 tonnes.
In September small-scale miners produced
1 012 tonnes against 928 tonnes that was achieved by the big mines. In October small-scale miners upped their production a bit to 1 022 while the big mines also marginally increased their output to 957 tonnes, which was still below that of the small miners.
In November both classes of miners managed to increase their output with small-scale miners still producing more that the big mines accounting for 1 123 tonnes while the latter managed to produce 1 043. Small-scale miners continued to produce more recording 1 017 tonnes against 957 tonnes that was produced by the big mines.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation public relations manager Mr Dosman Mangisi said there were a number of challenges that led to gold miners failing to reach their target.
“The fact that the sector produced 21 tonnes we feel challenged considering that we had earmarked to reach the 24 tonnes set by Treasury. We have noted a number of technical issues that led to us failing to achieve the set target. These included claim disputes, lack of appropriate equipment and skills with small-scale and artisanal miners needing more education through the outreach programme. There is also a need for appropriate or standardised technology in the processing of ore,” said Mr Mangisi.
He said the prevailing cash shortage in the country also had a negative impact on the production of the yellow metal with a number of miners especially small-scale miners being reluctant to operate at full throttle in light of having to face difficulties to access cash after production.
Mr Mangisi, however, expressed satisfaction at the contribution made by small-scale miners further hinting that there was a need for Government to support them to ensure that they continue to improve production.
“As ZMF we are proud of the part played by small-scale miners in gold deliveries. We are glad that during the last quarter small-scale miners’ monthly contribution was at an average of 10 percent above that of big mines and we are looking to double that this year,” he said.
Former ZMF president and one of the country’s biggest and experienced gold miner, Mr Trynos Nkomo said there was a need to ensure that the Government’s support facilities are crafted to suit an ordinary miner.
“The current Fidelity Printers and Refiners facility is beyond the reach of an ordinary miner and it needs to be revisited to suit all. Zimbabwe has a lot of gold deposits but surface or alluvial gold is fast running out and in its nature gold is volcanic, it’s from underground coming up and thus there is a need for Government to support miners with requisite machinery to extract it.
“The Government should also give priority to the mining sector the same way as it does the agricultural sector, this is through coming up with programmes that are specifically created and tailor-made to ensure enhanced production by the miners.
To an extent Fidelity can come up with Build Operate and Transfer arrangements with small-scale miners funding and equipping them for certain periods, that way we will be assured of increased production,” said Mr Nkomo.
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.
Gold is the largest mineral export earner after platinum in Zimbabwe and capacitation of small -scale producers is going to play a crucial role in increasing national annual gold production.