Big clash over gold looms

HARARE - A huge fight could be brewing between Zimbabwe’s $3 billion large-scale mining industry and government after a deputy minister claimed on Monday that hard-pressed producers had been under-declaring production volumes.

Gold mined in Zimbabwe is shipped to Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR), a Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe unit with sole rights to purchase bullion from 500 000 artisanal miners and big operators.

If Mines and Mining Development deputy minister, Polite Kambamura’s shock claims of delinquency are proved, this could discount reports that Zimbabwe’s multibillion dollar mining industry has been playing second fiddle to artisanal producers, who extract gold on hoes and picks.

Kambamura declared war on mines at the launch of the State of the Mining Industry Survey 2019, also slamming them for channelling gold through small-scale miners.

It was the reason why production volumes from large-scale miners had been dwarfed by artisanal producers, he claimed.

But experts said such techniques could be an indication that something is wrong in the administration of mines, which are subjected to harsh fees and taxes, the highest in southern Africa.

“I still believe that large-scale miners will override small-scale miners,” Kambamura said.

“We have noted with concern that some large-scale miners have been under declaring gold to Fidelity Printers. And in some instances they have been sending gold through the small-scale miners. So very soon we will be descending on them,” charged the deputy minister.

He queried why FPR had failed to challenge sharp rises and sudden drops in monthly gold deliveries from some mines, which he said pointed to potential backstage deals that must be investigated.

Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (CoMZ) president, Batisai Manhando immediately reacted to his claims and warned against resentments that could escalate and already bad crisis in the sector.

Small-scale gold miners delivered over half of 30 tonnes of bullions that has so far been delivered to FPR, according to official statistics.

As Kambamura left Rainbow Towers hotel with his huge entourage, Manhando queried government’s claims and challenged authorities to seriously review their policies before attacking miners.

“Why would large-scale producers want to be like small-scale miners?” Manhando said after being asked to respond.

“Let’s not kill large-scale producers by promoting small-scale producers. When we say Zimbabwe is open for business, we must also be practical on the ground,” Manhando said.

An unsustainable political risk profile, serious problems in accessing viable finance and volatilities triggered by recent policy flip flops were among the factors to militate against growth, according to the State of the Mining Industry Survey 2019.

The survey’s business confidence index said executives were eloquent about their projections of gloom prospects in Zimbabwe, where a sharp rise in inflation has sent shock waves in industries, with authorities battling to calm nerves.

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