THE incessant rains the country has been receiving is likely to contribute to about four months of lost production for small-scale miners in the country, a situation that might peg back gold targets anticipated this year.
Small-scale miners have been contributing about 40 percent of the yellow metal. This year, the Government had set targets to surpass last year’s 21,4 tonnnes.
Last year small-scale miners contributed 9,7 tonnes of gold that was delivered to Fidelity Printers and Refineries.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Ms Appolonia Munzverengwi said miners were likely to be slowed down by the rains.
“Especially this year from December and we have been hearing that the rains might continue up to March and this will affect production. Most of our mines are not covered to protect them from rains so we are going to have a decrease in production in these months,” said Ms Munzverengwi.
The country has received continous rains since the Christmas period resulting in some of the mines being inaccessible. Ms Munzerengi was, however, optimistic that production was likely to pick after March when the rainy season is over.
“We hope that by the end of March production would pick up,” she said.
ZMF chief executive officer Mr Wellington Takavarasha said miners must take advantage of the rain break that started last week to resume work.
“Now that the rains have stopped we hope that there is going to be some improvement in terms of gold production,” he said.
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 owing to a number of challenges including claim disputes, lack of appropriate equipment and skills with small-scale and artisanal miners needing more education through the outreach programme.
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 last year realising an output of 3 163 tonnes with the primary producers weighing in with 2 958 tonnes.
Meanwhile, Ms Munzverengwi said despite the challenges they were facing, small-scale miners were still optimistic that they will meet the targets.
“As small-scale miners we are looking at producing 12 tonnes this year. We may, however, reach 14 tonnes, which is half of the 28 tonnes (target) because of the $20 million Gold Development Initiative facility. Our miners started accessing the facility from late last year and we hope it is going to improve their production which we expect to top up from the nine tonnes we made last year,” said Ms Munzverengwi.
ZMF has set a target for each gold mining region to produce an average of three tonnes.
“I’m very happy about the impact the $20 million facility which is already being taken up by miners has had. The Government is not sitting, last week officials from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development came back from South Korea where they were exploring for resources for the sector. We hope this year we will get more support from the Government,” said Ms Munzverengwi.
The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development has sourced a $100 million loan facility, which is also meant to capacitate small-scale miners.
“As for the South Korean facility, I’m yet to get information of what it is all about. We understand the source of the funds have their own conditions. Having said this, we do have some who qualify. We hope some will also benefit from it,” said Ms Munzverengwi.
A number of small-scale miners have, however, raised concern about the stringent requirements set by Fidelity Printers and Refiners to access funding under the $20 million Gold Development Initiative.
“We appreciate the facility and it’s true that there has been an outcry pertaining to its stringent requirements and as a Federation we are trying to convince Fidelity (Printers and Refiners) to evaluate and reduce the criterion requirements,” said Ms Munzverengwi.
Mr Takavarasha added that negotiations were underway to ensure that terms and conditions to access funding through the Gold Development Initiative were relaxed.
“We negotiated with the RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe), which is the source of the fund and Fidelity Printers and Refiners that some miners have complained about collateral issues. We are still negotiating but in the meantime the project is still alive and miners are benefiting.
“We are actually going to collect the names of all the beneficiaries and evaluate how they are performing. We would want to see improvement from those miners . . . we want to see the improvement from there,” said Mr Takavarasha.
He also said there was a need for the Government to improve the Ease of Doing Business in the mining sector so as to enhance production.
“The Ease of Doing Business has been something that has been spoken about by the RBZ Governor (Dr John Mangudya).
Looking at the constraints that miners are facing in their work there is need to put in light policies that can enable them to work than the heavy punitive policies that are inhibitive,” Mr Takavarasha said.
A representative of Fidelity Printers and Refiners in Matabeleland region, Mr Bhekilizwe Manyathela acknowledged that most miners had raised concerns on the issue of collateral but hinted that the matter was being misconstrued.
“A lot of miners have applied for funding in the region but I can’t quantify the number at the moment. There are also a number that have benefited and some have started installing the machinery they acquired using the fund.
“I can confirm that we have received numerous complaints regarding to the issue of collateral but it has been misinterpreted because we aren’t saying miners should guarantee using their houses but they can do so using movable items which include machinery and even livestock,” said Mr Manyathela.
A Matabeleland South Province miner Mr Longwe Ndlovu said policy reviews and adequate funding was the cornerstone towards increased gold production in the country.
“Funding facilities such as the one introduced by Fidelity Printers and Refiners as well as reviewing of drastic policies will go a long way in ensuring that the sector achieves its set targets. As a region we were the best in terms of gold production last year and we are looking at improving on that this year,” said Mr Ndlovu.