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Experts call for larger gold mining claims

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GFMS World Gold, an independent mining equities research company, has urged government to allot larger gold mining claims to help the industry modernise to world-class mining houses and climb on global rankings.

The consultancy, which was contracted by the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe to assess Zimbabwe’s gold mining industry, also advised local gold miners to consolidate their mines and switch over from underground to open-pit mining – the most optimal way of exploiting the country’s highly resourced greenstone belt.

“Zimbabwe’s geological potential is great on the greenstone belt,” Paul Burton, GFMS World Gold managing director, said yesterday after presenting the report, entitled The Zimbabwe Gold Mining Industry.

“Zimbabwe has the right rocks, but small mining might not be the efficient mining option. The Zimbabwe Craton hosts some of the world’s greatest greenstone belts. Greenstones are one of the most extensive and productive sources of gold on the planet and as such the Zimbabwean rocks represent a huge potential treasure chest for miners.”

The Chamber of Mines commissioned the study in April with the objective of obtaining an analyst view on how the local gold sector could recoup its former glory as the world’s number 16 gold producer.

Burton reviewed Zimbabwe’s gold mining companies in Bulawayo and Harare by way of mine visits over a period of seven days in July.

His main observation was that the industry has potential to lead Zimbabwe’s economic recovery, provided it changes the way it operates.

“Mining companies in the country need to look at the wider deposit and the potential for lower-grade open-pit mines similar to those in Canada and West Africa.
Mining companies in the country are doing a lot of underground mining, following the veins and it’s for historical reasons: lack of capital and many small mines.

“The geology should not be a constraint to large-scale mining. But miners in Zimbabwe have a mindset that favours small, underground mines as the default option. Hence, they need to rethink their strategy and there are a number of companies who are already actively pursuing such plans.”

Burton said this type of mineralisation is found in places such as Yilgarn in Australia and Abitibi in Canada belts that have supported and continue to support large, world-class gold-mining operations.

Burton said the country’s gold mining sector has other problems: undercapitalisation and power problems and a critical skills shortage stemming from the country’s record brain drain.

The gold mining sector is currently operating at 40% of potential capacity utilisation and produced a total of 3 258 kilogrammes in the first six months.

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