EDITORIAL COMMENT: Fund artisanal miners to grow gold output
REPORTS that gold deliveries declined marginally in February to 2,01 tonnes compared to 2,6 tonnes delivered in January due to rains that hit most parts of the country, call for authorities to come up with lasting solutions to the problem. President Mnangagwa is on record saying the country’s economic turnaround will be anchored on mining and agriculture and his lieutenants managing these portfolios should ensure no stone is left unturned for these national objectives to be achieved.
It’s a fact during that part of the season the country experiences incessant rains that disrupt production even at conversational mining companies, but authorities should not sit on their laurels while production slumps.
While giant gold mining companies have financial muscle to install mitigatory measures to continue operating during the rainy season, it is the small-scale and artisanal miners who are left vulnerable to the vagaries of weather.
The Zimbabwe Miners Federation believes if small-scale miners get packages of up to $20 000 to acquire critical machinery such as compressors, jack hammers and high speed water pumps they will increase production. Government has set a target of 30 tonnes of gold this year, after recording successive delivery increases in the last five years, with small- scale producers at one point contributing 53 percent of the 24,8 tonnes produced recently.
Therefore we implore Government to expeditiously revive efforts to acquire US$100 million worth of equipment from Chinese mining equipment manufacturer XCMG Group for use by small-scale and artisanal miners.
The equipment is aimed at building capacity of small-scale gold miners to increase gold output from the sector, which contributed 53 percent of the total output last year and still exhibits massive potential going forward.
About US$5 million worth of equipment from the facility arranged by XCMG with China Development Bank was handed over to the miners in April last year and optimism remains high that production will be increased.
While addressing his maiden meeting with the Zanu-PF Youth League national assembly recently, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was going to revive its bid for the US$100 million equipment facility to support small miners.
A high-powered Government delegation will be heading for China soon to revive the facility that has huge potential to boost production in this lucrative sector and transform the economy.
Gold is Zimbabwe’s single biggest foreign currency earner as the sector generates over half of the country’s export earnings.
Inasmuch as the idea of bringing the equipment to help mechanise mining operations for the small-scale miners is noble, it is our hope that everything should be executed transparently and the intended beneficiaries should receive the machinery and funding.
This facility should also cascade down to artisanal miners who have proved with enough support can contribute significantly to national gold output. Although there has been unfair distribution of some facilities before, the small-scale and artisanal miners should also take a fair share of blame for failing to contribute meaningfully towards gold production in the country.
By the nature of their operations, the artisanal gold miners are like nomads with no fixed work stations, making it difficult for them to receive funding packages, some of them revolving facilities meant to benefit many miners.
We, therefore, call upon representative groups such as ZMF to help organise the artisanal miners into groups for easier administration so that they can receive funding. It’s time that this crop of miners organise themselves and transform into bigger companies that will lead the mining sector in the future.
Small-scale miners should not remain small, but become future leaders in gold mining.
This, however, cannot be achieved overnight, but takes a great deal of co-operation among key stakeholders that involve Government, miners and financial institutions.