Dumisani Nsingo and Dickson Mangena, Business Reporters
FIDELITY Printers and Refiners has disbursed about $4 million to over 10 small-scale miners under the $20 million gold development initiative facility aimed at enhancing production of the yellow metal in the country.
Fidelity Printers and Refiners head-gold operations Mr Mehluleli Dube said 11 of the more than 60 small-scale miners that applied for the facility had benefited while the process of assessing more applications was on-going.
The $20 million facility is the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s gold development initiative to support small-scale miners to increase the yellow mineral production. The initiative, which is expected to boost production, also entails the formalisation process of small-scale gold producers in line with responsible gold mining standards.
“So far 11 miners have benefited from the $20 million facility to the tune of about $4 million, as disbursed by Fidelity (Printers and Refiners) although there are other miners that had already benefited from the facility, when it was still administered by the RBZ. We are currently processing a further 35 applications that are at different stages at the moment, where some may even access the fund as early as next week,” said Mr Dube.
He said one of the major challenges, which the country’s gold buying unit was facing in its bid to expedite the disbursement of the fund, was the miners’ reluctance to pledge their collateral.
“In our assessments the major problem has been the people’s reluctance to pledge security, the miners prefer softer security which may be risky to us. Applications have been coming and miners are showing commitment just like in any other business.
People now even put their houses and other possessions for security,” said Mr Dube.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) first vice-president Mr Ishmael Kaguru said the facility would go a long way in improving gold production in the country further stating that his organisation was involved in talks with Fidelity Printers and Refiners to relax part of the terms that might hinder small-scale miners from accessing the fund.
“Some miners have benefited from the $20 million facility and Fidelity is assessing all the applications. That is why we urge all miners to apply for this facility. The importance of this facility is that it will enable us to increase production and as ZMF this is our aim to see our miners getting funding. We have discussed with Fidelity that they should take out all the obstacles so that every miner can be able to access these loans,” said Mr Kaguru.
He, however, said the facility was released late for gold miners to achieve Government’s set target of 24 tonnes this year. The gold production so far is reported to be just above 19 tonnes.
“We may not be able to meet the expected target but we are almost there, we are expecting around 23 tonnes. This loan facility was disbursed a bit late in the year, had it come even mid-year, we were going to surpass the 24 tonnes,” said Mr Kaguru.
The country has an estimated underground gold reserve of around 13 million tonnes which provides scope for tapping into the rich resource to liquefy the economy.