The Sunday Mail
GOLD miners delivered 2,6 tonnes in January, laying a firm foundation for potentially equalling the record 27,1 tonnes delivered at the country’s peak in 1999.
Artisanal miners continued to outperform large-scale producers after delivering 1,4 tonnes of gold in the period under review, despite their difficult operating environment which is easily affected by wet weather.
Large-scale producers delivered 1,2 tonnes in January.
The overall gold deliveries, at 2,6 tonnes, were one tonne more than the 1,6 tonnes delivered in the same period last year.
Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR), the gold buying arm of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, paid out about US$108 million in the purchase of 2,6 tonnes of gold delivered in January.
FPR general manager Mr Fradreck Kunaka told The Sunday Mail Business last week that, “Primary (large-scale) producers delivered 1,2 tonnes, small-scale miners (1,4 tonnes). Total deliveries for January were 2,6 tonnes.”
“(The) money used to buy the gold in January is approximately US$108 million,” said Mr Kunaka.
Gold deliveries in the first quarter of each year are usually low due to rains.
In the first half of last year, gold deliveries were 9,9 tonnes, with FPR using US$350 million to purchase the precious metal from miners.
There is expectation that deliveries will rise even further from the second quarter of the year as more miners are set to benefit from the gold support facility.
The RBZ increased the gold support facility to US$150 million this year, from US$74 million disbursed last year.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) spokesman Mr Dosman Mangisi believes artisanal miners can deliver way above their current capacity if they access funds.
“We welcome the RBZ efforts in increasing the facility for gold producers. It is definitely a short in the arm for artisanal miners.
“The previous fund did well to help the operations of artisanal miners but there are some who did not benefit because they did not have collateral while in some cases some were illiterate.
“I tell you that if small-scale miners get adequate funds — even small packages of US$20 000 — they will acquire critical pieces of machinery such as compressors and increase production,” said Mr Mangisi.
He also called for the involvement of small-scale miners’ representatives in the disbursement of funds so that those in dire need can access the facility to ramp up production.
ZMF, which represents about 8 000 small-scale miners — says its constituency is currently dogged by equipment shortages which has resulted in massive downtime as miners hop from place to place to hire from colleagues.
Last year, gold miners marginally surpassed the 24,5 tonnes target after delivering 24,8 tonnes.
RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya is hopeful that the US$150 million gold support facility and the periodic onsite monitoring by the Gold Mobilisation Technical Committee will spur deliveries this year.
The RBZ, which is the country’s sole buyer of gold through FRP, has taken interest in ensuring that Zimbabwe produces more gold which will be exported to generate foreign currency. A shortage of foreign currency has impacted on the country’s ability to process international payments, including for critical spares required by manufacturing and mining sector equipment as well as raw materials.