Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
SMALL-scale miners have called on Government to consider paying 100 percent of gold deliveries in hard currency after deliveries to Fidelity Printers and Refineries (FPR) for November plummeted by 44 percent compared to the previous month.
Small-scale miners are the country’s major gold producers after overtaking primary producers in deliveries to the country’s sole legal gold buyer FPR, but for the first time this year they failed to hit the one tonne mark in a calendar month after delivering just over 600 kilograms.
This is a sharp decline compared to almost two tonnes achieved in October and a high of 3,02 tonnes in August which thrust deliveries to an all-time record high of 31,6 tonnes as at end of November up from an annual haul of 24,8 tonnes last year and 21,1 tonnes in 2016.
The November decline also resulted in the small-scale sector falling behind primary producers for the second time in a calendar month this year having done the same in July.
In an interview with The Herald Business, Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) – the umbrella body representing small-scale miners – said there are two major reasons to explain the sharp decline.
Fuel shortages that have resulted in snaking queues as well as the decline in value of RTGS money and the bond note against the US dollar on the parallel market are the major reasons, with the latter forcing some miners to the parallel market, notes ZMF president Ms Henrietta Rushwaya.
“There is clearly cause for concern when the country’s biggest foreign currency earner registers such a sharp decline inside a month,” Ms Rushwaya said.
“The major challenge from a miner’s view has been fuel unavailability where you will realise that productive time was spent in queues and the results are now showing on deliveries.
“Then there is the issue where we have always said Fidelity should pay for deliveries 100 percent in USD as opposed to the current situation where 30 percent is paid in RTGS. The end result is that some miners then end up channelling their produce to the parallel market.
“Even if they are to pay $35 per gram all in US dollar cash I think this will see a sharp rise in deliveries,” she said.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando is on record saying this year’s rise in production owes much to Government efforts to curb leakages through the gold mobilisation taskforce.
The national gold mobilisation taskforce is mandated to make sure that all the gold produced in the country goes into the formal channels and is comprised of officials from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the police.
Speaking at the official send-off of the gold mobilisation taskforce in early November, Minister Chitando said, “We certainly can stand proud to the fact that this taskforce, its activities over the last few months have contributed immensely towards the big increase in gold delivered to Fidelity.
“ . . . we believe there is still more to be done. We believe that we need to continue to redouble our efforts to ensure that all the gold that is produced finds its way into the formal channel,” said the minister in early November.