Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
AT least 70 percent of small-scale and artisanal miners across the country have been forced to stop operations as shafts at the mines are now flooded with water, a situation which might hit gold output this year.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) first vice-president Mr Ishmael Kaguru said miners would have an insurmountable task to meet the target of 28 tonnes of gold set by the Government this year. He said the miners were unlikely to meet their seven tonnes output for the first quarter of the year.
“We are going to face serious challenges in terms of meeting our production target of 28 tonnes this year due to the incessant rains we are receiving. As for the first quarter we are likely to meet 30 percent of the gold production. The rains have drastically affected miners’ operations, movement is difficult as most miners are facing difficulties to cross flooded rivers and most of the roads are inaccessible due to the effects of the torrential rains. Most of the shafts are water logged so it becomes difficult for miners to operate,” said Mr Kaguru.
According to information received from Fidelity Printers and Refineries gold deliveries for January were 1,6 tonnes. Last year, gold miners failed to reach their 24 tonnes target and only managed to produce 21,4 tonnes with small-scale miners contributing 9,7 tonnes that was delivered to Fidelity Printers and Refineries with the rest coming from big mines.
Last week, one mining concern, AIM-listed Vast Resources said production at its Pickstone-Peerless gold mine in Chegutu declined by 11 percent to 4 356 ounces (oz) in the fourth quarter ended December 2016 due to continued rains.
In a quarterly production update, Vast Resources indicated that the increased rains that were experienced during the period under review disrupted mining and milling operations.
“Gold production at Pickstone-Peerless Mine decreased by 11 percent to 4 356oz in the fourth quarter ended December 2016 from 4 910oz achieved in the quarter ended September 2016. The decline in production was due to high rainfall that restricted mining and milling in December,” it said.
The resources mining concern also indicated that ore milled during the period under review decreased by six percent to 61 355 tonnes compared to the previous quarter’s figures of 65 573 tonnes. Mr Kaguru said most mines have since stopped operations due to the torrential rains.
“Over 70 percent of small-scale and artisanal miners have since stopped operations because of the rains. Even if one has water pumps, you can pump out water and the following day the shaft will be filled. To make the situation even worse with these incessant rains there are constant power cuts due to faults,” he said.
In addition, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company has reported an increase in faults due to the heavy rains.
“ZETDC advises its valued customers countrywide that there is an increase in electrical faults due to the prevailing heavy rains that are interfering with the electricity infrastructure. The heavy rains have resulted in an increase in unplanned power outages with faults taking longer to repair than normally the case . . . ,” it said.
Mr Kaguru said the rains have also made it difficult for mining houses to pay their workers.
“This is the worst scenario I have seen in my 35 years in mining. Most miners pay workers on contractual basis basing on level of production thus a number of miners are failing to meet their obligations to their employees,” he said.
ZMF secretary-general Mr Victor Rupende said most of the mines in Mashonaland Central and East Provinces had temporarily stopped operating due to the rains.
“The rains are just too much. We recently had a tour of the miners that won prizes at the recently held Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Gold Sector 2016 Awards and the scenario was really bad. Most of their shafts are full of water and some had their head gears damaged due to the rains.
“We are expecting maximum production to resume sometime in June. About 90 percent of the mines are not operating while for those that are operating mobility seems to be a challenge as most of the roads are inaccessible thus their production is also affected in a way,” said Mr Rupende.
ZMF public relations and communications manager Mr Dosman Mangisi said the small-scale and artisanal miners’ representative body was carrying out an exercise to establish the number of mines whose operations were affected by the rains throughout the country.
“We are carrying out an exercise to gather information of the mines whose operations have been affected by the rains.
However, I understand that 90 percent of the mines in Mberengwa have been affected by the rains. The shafts are getting filled with water and some miners have deserted their mines saying they will resume operations in April.
“It is estimated that miners have lost investment of around an average of $5 000 due to damage of machinery such as compressors and generators and pumping water from the shaft itself comes at a cost. We will, however, be in a position to come up with proper figures of the affected mines next week (this week),” he said.