BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
RESOURCES firm Caledonia Mining Corporation has blasted off its first gold ore at the US$67 million Central Shaft at Blanket Mine in Gwanda, marking the beginning of a new era following six years of protracted development.
Central Shaft represents one of the most recent significant gold mining investment projects in Zimbabwe that is a game-changer to Caledonia’s local interests.
In a shareholder update released on Tuesday, chief executive Steve Curtis said commissioning of the shaft was key to fulfilling the firm’s ambition.
“I am delighted to announce that our new Central Shaft, which is the deepest shaft of any gold mine in Zimbabwe, is fully operational,” Curtis said.
“We can now start to hoist rock, men and material on a daily-basis, which will solve our hoisting constraints and facilitate the planned expansion in mine capacity targeting 80 000oz (ounces) of gold production per year.
“This has been an owner-funded and built project by the Blanket team and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work and especially for achieving the completion of the shaft without any serious accidents, recording only two lost time injuries,” Curtis added.
Central Shaft is expected to ramp up production, trim overheads and build fresh capacity to undertake further exploration and development at one of Zimbabwe’s biggest and most resilient gold mines.
Curtis said production guidance for 2021 ranged from 61 000 to 67 000oz.
He projected that output would rise 38% by next year, hitting the highly anticipated 80 000oz mark.
Caledonia is already constructing a US$12 million 12 megawatt solar plant at the operation to improve the quality and security of Blanket’s power supply.
The plant is expected to provide approximately 27% of Blanket’s total daily electricity needs.
It will be constructed by Voltalia, an international renewable energy provider, and is expected to be operational early next year.
Blanket represents part of Caledonia’s bigger Zimbabwean ambition.
Bloomberg reported in October that the firm was interested in buying one of Zimbabwe’s largest gold operations as it embarks on an aggressive plan to acquire more assets in the country.
The report said the Jersey-based gold producer was weighing an acquisition of Bilboes Gold’s Isabella-McCays-Bubi mines in northwest Zimbabwe.
The mines can potentially produce more than 200 000 ounces of gold.
Most of the Isabella-McCays-Bubi operations were at the time mothballed as the owners searched for investors.