Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
Government is disputing claims by Chegutu West legislator Cde Dexter Nduna (pictured right) that artisanal miners at Pickstone Peerless Mine are depositing 100kg of gold with Fidelity Printers every month.
Cde Nduna made the claims in an article published by this paper on Tuesday in which he was defending illegal panners who were removed from Pickstone Peerless Mine in Chegutu recently.
In the article, Cde Nduna maintained that there were panners who were trapped in shafts that were backfilled by Pickstone Peerless Mine without prior warning.
He also accused Mines and Mining Development Secretary Professor Francis Gudyanga of siding with owners of Pickstone Peerless Mine, while ignoring the plight of panners.
Official figures provided by the Ministry of Mines yesterday showed that no small-scale mine in the country had ever reached 100kg per month.
Mines and Mining Development principal director Mr Valentine Vera yesterday said only large-scale mines with advanced equipment had the capacity to reach or slightly surpass the 100kg gold output per month.
He said the whole mining process by panners at Pickstone Peerless Mine was illegal and the panners had no ore removal permits to take their ore for milling. They couldn’t therefore deposit their illegal produce with Fidelity Printers.
Said Mr Vera: “The only small- scale mine that broke records in terms of gold deliveries was Taka Forest in Chimanimani which produced 96kg of gold in 2004.
“For this year alone up to November all small-scale miners had delivered 6 551,94 kg which translates to 6,5 tonnes.
“Claims that artisanal miners at Pickstone Peerless Mines are producing 100kg means that they are producing 1,2 tonnes annually, which is practically impossible by our standards and records.
“One of the biggest gold producers, Freda Rebecca, at its peak in 1998 was producing 180kg monthly and no small-scale mine can reach that feat.”
Permanent Secretary in the same Ministry Professor Francis Gudyanga said the figure claimed by Cde Nduna was unrealistic.
He said it was impossible for Pickstone artisanal miners to deposit 100kg with Fidelity because by their nature they were illegal miners with no documents.
“You cannot deposit when you are illegal,” he said.
“Those miners, according to records from our Kadoma office, do not have ore removal permits, which makes them illegal miners.
“If they are challenging this they should bring official receipts of official declarations and other requisite official paper trail.
“We want to see their official receipts for the 1 percent royalty paid to Government and presumptive tax equivalent to the 100kg delivery claim.
“The fact that they (panners) had no ore removal permits makes the whole story suspicious if they are really depositing their gold with Fidelity Printers. If they are depositing the gold using the name of another company again that is an illegal process.”
Prof Gudyanga said there were six small-scale miners at Pickstone, which were Eiffel 73, St Kilder, Laura Shark, Butterfly, Mutongwizi Milling and Murasta Milling.
He said one of them was not registered and he was yet to verify it.
“We are actually getting figures of how much these mines are depositing with Fidelity Printers tomorrow (today) but for all intents and purposes they cannot reach 100kg,” he said.
“The locations where the mining activities were being conducted are registered and current to Breckridge Investments. The artisanal miners had no tribute agreement in place authorising them to mine in the mining location.”
Prof Gudyanga said artisanal miners were encouraged to study the provisions of the Mines and Mining Act (Chapter 21:05) that governs all mining operations.
This, he said, implied that every miner should have a valid mining title.
Prof Gudyanga said artisanal miners could choose to register individually or form syndicates which in turn could approach mines with excess ground for tribute agreements.
Regarding politicians getting involved in mining operations in the country, Prof Gudyanga said: “The mandate to regulate and oversee all mining operations is placed under the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. The ministry works with various stakeholders and politicians form part of our stakeholders.
“The focus of their activities is to promote development within the confines of the law and to seek advice from the ministry officials on how best to assist their constituent members so that the mining activities are conducted sustainably, safely and legally.”
Commenting on the claims of trapped panners, Prof Gudyanga said investigations were still underway with the ministry expected to announce its position next week.
He said the ministry had deployed skilled personnel to conduct the investigations including the acting Government chief mining engineer, acting provincial mining director for Mashonaland West, mining engineer and inspectors of mines and explosives.
Recently, Prof Gundyanga said the team, with the assistance of the company, had dug 22 metres and no shred of evidence had been found to give credence to the alleged trapping.
Police have since confirmed that one of the alleged victims was located recently in Zvimba in good health.