GOLD production in the small-scale mining sector is projected to drop by 29% to 12 tonnes this year due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, an official has said.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
The sector, which accounts for more than 60% of gold deliveries to Fidelity Printers and Refiners — an arm of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe — last year produced 17 tonnes of gold while major gold producing mines produced 10 tonnes.
In total, the country’s gold output fell 17% in 2019 to 27,66 tonnes, down from 2018’s 33,29 tonnes, according to the central bank, contributing about 37% to mineral exports, down from 43% recorded in the previous year.
The decline was attributable to electricity shortages, gold leakages and inadequate equipment for small-scale miners.
Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation (ZMF) chief executive officer Wellington Takavarasha told NewsDay Business that the miners were struggling to source critical consumables such as explosives due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
“We are not sure as of when the COVID-19 will end. At the moment, small-scale mining companies are operating but at low levels while on the other hand prices of gold are not good,” Takavarasha said.
“Some of the miners are not operating. Last year, small-scale miners managed to produce 17 tonnes of gold and in March this year they produced only one tonne. From this statistics, we are likely to close the year at 11 or 12 tonnes, thereabout,” he said.
Takavarasha said miners were struggling to get consumables such as explosives due to restrictions effected by supply countries such as China and South Africa.
ZMF is an umbrella body for small-scale miners in the country.
Countries around the world have enforced lockdowns and travel restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19, crippling economies in the process.
The disease has so far killed more than 285 000 people from 4,2 million confirmed cases with Zimbabwe recording four deaths from 36 confirmed cases.
Gold is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest foreign currency earners, having accounted for US$1,3 billion in annual forex receipts in 2019, translating close to a third of total export earnings.
Last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched a strategic roadmap to propel the country’s mining sector to a US$12 billion industry by 2023.
However, the target is under threat due to COVID-19.
Under the mining roadmap, gold is expected to contribute US$4 billion, platinum US$3 billion, while chrome, iron, steel, diamonds and coal contribute US$1 billion.
Lithium is expected to contribute US$500 million and US$1,5 billion will come from other minerals.