Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE setting up of gold service centres in the country’s yellow metal mining regions is expected to improve the mineral’s collection through the formal channel and subsequently its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), officials have said.
The country’s small-scale and artisanal miners’ flagship, the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) has praised the setting up of a $5 million gold service centre in Bubi District, Matabeleland North Province by a South African mining equipment supplier, Gold Genius and its plans to roll-out such facilities in four other areas in Matabeleland region as a major step towards Government’s efforts to curb smuggling of gold outside the country.
ZMF first vice-president Mr Ishmael Kaguru said work on the pilot project in Bubi was already under way.
“The first project in Bubi has taken off and we expect work at the site to end before the end of this month. Thereafter the plant will be up and running. We have also identified other areas to set up such service centres and these will be in Matobo and Plumtree.
“We are now negotiating with the (Matobo and Plumtree) mining associations in that area to sign Memorandum of Understandings with the South African company with us as their representative. Thereafter we are moving to Shangani and then Fort Rixon,” said Mr Kaguru.
He said construction of those service centres was expected to improve gold production as well as curb smuggling syndicates.
“If the setting up of these centres is expedited it will enable us to meet the target that will be set for us this year. It will also curb the smuggling of gold because the buying centres are also on site, at the miners’ door step. We are trying to seal every corner so that we prevent any leakages. We have, however, realised that it is mostly those that use metal dictators that smuggle because their activities are not monitored at all.
“In the next two years or so we expect these service centres to have played a big part in changing the face of our country and we will have created employment. The bottom line is to empower small-scale miners and once that is done we will create more employment,” said Mr Kaguru.
ZMF chief executive officer Mr Wellington Takavarasha said the service centres would be hubs of all gold production activities.
“Service centres are ideal for small-scale and artisanal miners, they are more of a hub for gold activities. That’s where the miners get technical assistance in the form of geologists and various other experts as well as mining consumables. Having service centres also eliminates any forms of illicit dealings such as smuggling of the mineral because there will be an accredited buying centre located within the site,” he said.
Speaking after their Annual General Meeting two weeks ago, Mangwe Miners Association chairman Mr Seartosea Ncube said the setting up of a service centre in their area would play a pivotal role in reducing the distance travelled to sell the gold.
“There is a shortage of millers in this area and the few that are there are deliberately charging exorbitant fees, a situation which is impacting negatively on our mining business thus the setting up of a service centre will address the challenge we are facing at the moment in the interim. Our plea is to obtain a permit to mop up the gold in the area.
“We are also faced with a situation whereby miners have to travel long distances to sell gold in Bulawayo because we don’t have a Fidelity Printers and Refiner buying centre nearby and this has led to some miners being robbed and having a service centre will enable us to sell our gold efficiently,” said Mr Ncube.
He said although most gold mining activities in Mangwe District were mostly confined in Mphoengs near the Zimbabwean border with Botswana, there are few cases pertaining to the smuggling of the mineral beyond the border.
“There are no reports of gold smuggling, this is largely due to the fact that there are no gold panners in this area. We are, however, poorly equipped and we haven’t benefited from a Government programme, maybe it’s due to the fact that it takes time for such information to be disseminated to us because of distance,” said Mr Ncube.