Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
THE Government yesterday launched a $50 million loan fund to facilitate revival of Bulawayo companies that are involved in the manufacture of mining and mineral processing equipment.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa and his Industry and Commerce counterpart, Dr Mike Bimha, officially launched the facility at a joint function at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) grounds in Bulawayo.
The funding, which was sourced from Sakunda Energy, would be used to capacitate the small-scale gold mining sector and reviving the manufacturing industry in the city. Instead of sourcing mining equipment from abroad, Minister Chidhakwa said the fund will be given to local companies who would then manufacture the required machinery and deliver it to beneficiary miners.
Dr Bimha said the launch of the fund is in sync with efforts to harness linkages between economic sectors along the value chain. He said the funding would go a long way in revitalising the city’s manufacturing sector, which has for a long time suffered losses to imported machinery.
“I applaud the Ministry of Mines for coming on board to assist industry at this opportune time. Since the last decade contribution to GDP by the manufacturing sector has been going down. The drop in capacity utilisation has been linked to the breakdown in linkages with the mining sector,” he said.
“Strong linkages are crucial and today we see the launch of a sustainable facility. Value chains are strategic tools for industrialisation in the Sadc region, Comesa and the African Union.”
Dr Bimha said the loan facility also comes in handy in the thrust to retool industries amid reports that 50 percent of firms in Bulawayo have equipment that was more than 20 years old.
He expressed the hope that the funding would assist the country in improving productivity and boosting export earnings.
In coming up with the funding scheme, he said the Government realised the need to come up with an equitable plant and equipment distribution model that will increase plant availability and accessibility to miners.
“In that regard the loan scheme will make eligible individual miners, those who deliver their gold to Fidelity Printers, benefit from mining and hoisting equipment,” said the minister.
Apart from increasing gold production and deliveries to Fidelity, the loan facility will facilitate capacitation of both the mining sector and the local manufacturing sector. The mining and processing equipment to be loaned to miners will be manufactured locally.
As such, the minister said the manufacturers of mining and mineral processing equipment should embrace this business opportunity and demonstrate their ability to deliver equipment at the right standards to serve the local mining industry.
He said the objective of the loan facility was to encourage mining of idle claims, empower small scale miners, minimise mineral leakages and complement support to small scale miners.
Speaking at the same event president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), an umbrella body for all small scale miners in the country, Ms Apollonia Munzverengwi, paid tribute to Government for recognition of the contribution of small scale miners in the economy.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era to small scale miners. We have been crying for mechanisation all these years and Government has realised we are a game changer in town,” she said.
To show appreciation of Government efforts, Ms Munzverengwi said small scale miners have pledged to produce up to 20 tonnes of gold alone going forward. She also urged players in the sector to deliver their gold to Fidelity.