BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
THE Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) has inked a string of deals with several partners to increase gold output.
Under the deals signed last week, the ZMF seeks to improve mining technologies and access to fuel and finance in line with Zimbabwe’s ambition to build a US$12 billion mining sector by 2030.
ZMF’s mostly small-scale mining members will be key to achieving this target given that artisanal miners already command the lion’s share of gold produced in Zimbabwe following the collapse of most big players in the past two decades.
ZMF president Henrietta Rushwaya said the tripartite agreement will see the Central Mechanical Equipment Department helping artisanal miners to access fuel, while a foreign firm, AliJapan 786 Zimbabwe Private Limited will ship equipment to sector players.
Zimbabwe’s biggest bank, CBZ Bank will provide finance.
Rushwaya said the tripartite agreements formed part of ongoing steps towards convincing artisanal miners to sell gold through official channels and combat smuggling.
Smuggling costs Zimbabwe about US$100 million monthly, according to the Home Affairs ministry.
“The purpose of the partnership agreements is to grow and develop the artisanal and small-scale miners,” Rushwaya said.
The ZMF has acquired one gold buying permit in a deal which will see the federation’s agents mopping up gold in Mashonaland Central, East and West provinces.
“The bullion will be weighed and smelt before being remitted to Fidelity Printers and Refiners,” Rushwaya said.
Fidelity Printers is the sole official buyer of gold produced in Zimbabwe.
She said gold buying offices will be set up in Harare, Gwanda, Zvishavane and Kadoma.
“This will be the first phase of the project implementation. In the second phase, ZMF will acquire gold-buying permits, identify agents and set up gold buying officers for all the mining districts,” Rushwaya said.
“Cash will be accessed from CBZ branches. ZMF personnel at all the ZMF gold buying centres will hand over any bullion transacted equivalent to cash disbursed to CBZ- ZMF vaults for transit to Harare.”
Under the fuel scheme, fuel from the Central Mechanical Equipment Department depots around the country will be dispensed to miners.
Speaking on the vehicle loan scheme, Rushwaya said: “ZMF seeks to enter into an agreement with a renowned vehicle seller to avail cars on loan to miners. The repayment will either be in hard currency or gold as per contractual terms.”
Last week, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said there was a high level of gold smuggling in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector.
As a result, Treasury has stepped up efforts to entice these producers to sell gold through official channels.
Smuggling has been aggravated by unfavourable forex retention thresholds set up by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which was previously 55%, before being reviewed to the current 70%.
This meant for gold delivered to authorities, miners receive 70% of their earnings in foreign currency.
The remainder is paid in the local currency.
“On gold smuggling, this continues to be a challenge. But we are taking various measures,” Ncube said.
“The small-scale producers are paid in hard US dollars and all this is to make sure that they sell their gold to Fidelity. We are also developing gold centres where these SME gold producers are supported.”