Bikita Rural District Council has announced plans to re-open the Umkondo Gold Mine at Save Valley Conservancy, where the local authority has a stake as part of efforts to expand revenue generation.
Council has an undisclosed stake in the mothballed gold mine, but revival of operations is subject to approval from conservancy operators at the wildlife-rich habitat in the south-eastern part of the district.
Bikita RDC used to have a stake in the defunct mine by virtue of its stake in Umkondo Ranch, which is part of the Save Valley Conservancy that borders Bikita, Chiredzi, Buhera, Zaka and Chipinge districts.
Besides gold extraction, council also generated revenue at Umkondo through joint wildlife trophy hunting operations.
Council chief executive Mr Peter Chibi said efforts were underway to reopen Umkondo Mine.
The only stumbling block, he said, was getting approval from other stakeholders at Save Valley.
“We are planning to meet authorities at Save Valley Conservancy over the reopening of Umkondo Mine because currently the area around the closed mine is being used for wildlife conservancy operations,” he said.
“‘The issue here is that we have to reach consensus with the other players at Save Valley before we resume mining operations. We also need to look at issues of funding the revival of mining operations because mining is capital intensive and requires serious investors.”
Mr Chibi said his council would also need to establish, which of the two ventures, mining and wildlife operations, was more profitable and easy to manage.
Newly-elected Bikita RDC chair Cllr Benjamin Masakadza said his council would identify suitable partners for gold extraction at Umkondo.
“Our intention is to reach an agreement with other conservancy operators and apply for a mining licence from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development before seeking partners for the mining project,” he said.
“The idea here is to fence only the area where the disused mine is situated while waiting for resuscitation of mining operations, but we want the surrounding areas to remain as wildlife management arena.”
Cllr Masakadza said preliminary indications showed that gold mining was more lucrative compared to wildlife business though he conceded that his council will have to consider several other factors before deciding on the final project to pursue.
Save Valley comprises of fully operational wildlife management properties belonging to various stakeholders. Bikita RDC runs a wildlife sanctuary straddling over 6 000 hectares at the conservancy.
Besides rich gold deposits parts of Save Valley are also famed for rich copper and diamond reserves.
The rich deposits have attracted hundreds of illegal miners who occasionally engage in running battles with the police.