The Sunday Mail
EXPORTS have shot up to US$4 billion as at September 29, 2017, with the mining sector continuing to outshine other sectors of the economy, raking in a staggering US$1,718 billion – representing 68 percent of total earnings – largely driven by gold.
Statistics from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) show that export receipts stand at US$4,04 billion. The figure is already higher than the US$2,8 billion generated all of last year.
Of the export earnings realised up to September 29, gold – arguably the metal driving the economy – has raked in US$683 million – representing a 38 percent contribution to overall exports.
Platinum, which Government is keen to beneficiate locally to increase revenues, has generated US$653,2 million which translates to 36 percent of total export earnings.
Ferrochrome comes third on US$236 million – which implies a 34 percent contribution while chrome has brought in US$73,3 million.
Diamonds pumped in US$64 million while “other” exports generated a combined US$93 million for the period to September 29, 2017.
Last year, the country generated US$1,4 billion from mining. It is the dominance of gold in the minerals category that continues to impress after contributing 42 percent to exports all of last year, followed by platinum on 40 percent.
Critically, the reversal of contribution patterns between large- and small-scale miners – who use ordinary mining tools such as picks and shovels compared to the high-tech equipment used by big miners – has astounded experts.
By August, total gold deliveries to Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR) – the gold buying arm of the RBZ – had reached almost 14,7 tonnes.
Of this, small-scale miners contributed 7,2 tonnes while primary producers weighed in with almost 7,5 tonnes.
FPR gold operations manager Mr David Mpofu told small-scale miners at a Gold Mobilisation Outreach campaign in Mazowe last Thursday that they contributed 1,46 tonnes (57,39 percent) in August alone, compared to 1,1 tonnes (42,6 percent) delivered by primary producers.
“In September, small-scale miners produced 1,49 tonnes (59,39 percent) compared to one tonne (40,6 percent) delivered by large-scale miners.
“So, it shows that you are working. That is why we came here to meet you and encourage you to continue doing well, and delivering to Fidelity where you get more money compared to illegal gold buyers,” said Mr Mpofu.
Small-scale miners in Mazowe revealed that they are paid anything between US$29 and $35 by illegal gold buyers.
But FPR, whose price is directly linked to the international market, was US$42,80c last Thursday. Crucially, FPR pays a further 10 percent above the international market price, to incentivise miners to deliver more gold through the formal market.
Illegal gold buyers, who lay siege on hapless small-scale miners – offering them inducements which include food, money to transport their ore to nearby mills and sacks to carry the ore – are understood to be prejudicing the country of approximately 700kg (about 0,71 tonnes) per month. This has prompted FPR to embark on nationwide Gold Mobilisation Outreach programmes beginning last Thursday to November 24, to conscientise small-scale miners of the benefits associated with delivering gold to formal channels.
RBZ Principal Inspector – Exchange Control Inspectorate, Mr Paul Mapanzure, who was part of the outreach programme, also underscored the centrality of small-scale miners in gold deliveries and consequently foreign currency generation.
“As the mining sector, small-scale miners are important to the Reserve Bank because when we look at the money coming into the country, the bulk of it is coming from mining.
“Some of the minerals we are mining and exporting are platinum, chrome and diamonds. These (minerals) are the ones generating the bulk of our money.
“But why are we encouraging the production of more gold? We hear of the 27 tonnes that we are targeting this year. We want to use the foreign currency generated internally, you are aware that we are using a multi-currency (system) including US dollars, (British) pounds, euro, rand, pula, remnimbi (and) yen; all these currencies are foreign and to get them, we need to export,” said Mr Mapanzure.
He added that once the foreign currency has been generated, it will be used for transactions in shops, paying salaries, buying drugs, food, fertilisers and equipment required by small-scale miners to extract gold.
With just over 17 tonnes of gold delivered to FPR so far, miners need to up their game if the 27 tonnes target set for this year is to be achieved.
Mr Mapanzure said miners should deliver an average of three tonnes to FPR between this month and December.
“So we need to work and deliver that gold to Fidelity. I want to commend you small-scale miners because in the last three months, you were delivering more than large-scale miners.
“And when we stop selling in the black market – where you are getting US$35 compared to Fidelity’s US$45, production will rise and the equipment which you want will be imported. Chemicals will also come,” he said.
However, Mr Mapanzure encouraged small-scale miners to open bank accounts so that they receive their payments for gold through banks.
The move aims to reduce pressure of hard cash.