The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government is working on coming up with a dedicated department to cater for small-scale miners within the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development in a bid to improve their production and contribution to the mining sector.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) chief executive officer Mr Wellington Takavarasha said the Government’s realisation of the significant contribution brought about by small-scale miners to the mining sector and the economy has prompted the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to come up with a department to specifically deal with small-scale miners’ issues.
“There is now a small-scale miners’ desk, which is going to be functional soon and personnel from the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Ministry has been seconded to specifically deal with small-scale miners’ issues. The Ministry of Mines (and Development) also noted the importance of ZMF as it has indicated that we are going to be meeting on weekly basis to discuss issues about small-scale miners. Over and above all when the Minister (Winston Chitando) spoke about attaining a US$12 billion mining industry he indicated that US$4 billion will be coming from small-scale miners. The ministry has begun to see the significance and potential of small-scale miners,” he said.
Mr Takavarasha, however, said there was a need for Government to expedite the formalisation of artisanal miners’ activities to enable them to contribute effectively to the mining sector.
“We still need the issue of formalisation to be addressed as a matter of urgency because it gives people mining titles and if they get the titles they will actively get involved in the mainstream economy. There is also a need to look into the issue of the Gold Trade Act because the police have started arresting people without proper documentation. Before the arrests there was an upsurge in gold deliveries but if there are arrest the gold is traded outside the formal market. It is estimated that the gold traded outside the formal market is about a tonne per month conservatively though it could be more. We still deserve to be recognised properly by being put in the mainstream economy, this is our biggest challenge which we are working flat out with the ministry,” he said.
Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura confirmed the setting-up of a small-scale miners’ desk but could not be drawn to comment more only saying: “it’s still work in progress”.
He, however, said the Government would this year introduce a number of policy measures aimed at creating an enabling environment for small-scale miners.
“We not only value their (small-scale miners) contribution to the fiscus but their lives, welfare and formalisation. This year Government is coming up with a cocktail of policy interventions into the (small-scale mining) sector,” said Deputy Minister Kambamura.
Mr Takavarasha also said there were a myriad of challenges which led to the decline of gold deliveries to the country’s sole buyer of the yellow mineral, Fidelity Printers and Refineries chief among them being payment system of the 55 percent foreign currency and 45 percent local currency.
“The 55 to 45 percent was one of the major challenges that affected gold remittances to FPR and from the last National Budget the (Finance and Economic Development) Minister (Professor Mthuli Ncube) promised to look into it,” he said.
The small-scale representative body has over the past few years been pushing Government to consider paying gold miners 100 percent in foreign currency for the yellow metal delivered at the country’s sole gold buyer and exporter to curb side marketing.
Mr Takavarasha added that the issue of machete-wielding gangs’ criminal activities, which have wreaked havoc at gold mining sites across the country also impacted on the drop of gold remittance to FPR last year.
“The other issue that might have led to the decline is the surge in machete wielding gangs, which started around September and became quite serious towards the end of the year such that players in the industry withdrew, these are those that are known to be registered gold buyers. It was so difficult and dangerous for one to be known as a gold buyer in that atmosphere so people had to withdraw. Remember we have gold buying agents throughout the country. As ZMF we are working closely with the law enforcers in terms of eradicating this whole issue of machete madness,” he said.
The other issues that contributed low gold output were erratic power outages and fuel shortages.
Last year, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development set a gold delivery target of 40 tonnes buoyed by the strong showing in the preceding year where miners had managed to haul 33,28 tonnes of the yellow metal.
Miners delivered 27 tonnes to FPR with small-scale miners contributing 17 tonnes while primary producers remitted 10 tonnes.
“We produced 62 percent (of the gold delivered to FPR), which is a decline from the 65 percent the previous year (2018) but still more than big mining operations,” said Mr Takavarasha.
Small-scale miners have contributed at least 60 percent of the gold deliveries since 2016.