Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
BUBI Milling Centre Private Limited, one of the numerous Gold Service Centres earmarked to be set-up by Government as it moves to ensure the yellow metal from small-scale and artisanal miners is sold through formal channels is expected to start operating in September.
Bubi Small-Scale Miners Association (BSSMA) chairman Mr Siqeduthando Ncube said the Gold Service Centre, which was initiated two years ago would play a big role in ensuring small-scale and artisanal miners realise optimum returns from their ore.
He said over the years small-scale and artisanal miners were failing to obtain substantial value from the ore delivered to private gold millers.
“We have been waiting for this project for a long time. It is worth noting that this milling centre is very different from others in the sense that miners are set to benefit even from the gold realised from the sands obtained after milling the ore. The company will be entitled to 60 percent of the gold realised from the sand while the miner obtains 40 percent. Cash realised from selling the gold realised by the company would go towards servicing a loan from Fidelity Printers and Refiners,” said Mr Ncube.
Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) facilitated a loan of $3,5 million from Fidelity Printers and Refineries for the purchasing of machinery and various mining consumables for use at the Centre. The loan facility is expected to be repayable over a period of three years with a three-month grace period.
Bubi Milling Centre Private Limited, a joint venture between BSSMA and the ZMDC is expected to be officially opened by Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga today.
“Though the Centre will be officially opened on Sunday (today), operations are expected to start after eight weeks. We are, however, very happy about the move taken by Government, the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) in particular and the current Minister (of Mines and Mining Development) Winston Chitando for their efforts in realising the role played by small-scale miners in turning around the country’s economy. Minister Chitando became the first minister to visit us as small-scale miners here in Bubi as the past minister only toured bigger miners. This shows that he recognises the role we play as small-scale miners,” said Mr Ncube.
BSSMA has already identified 10 groups of small-scale miners drawn from across the district that would be delivering 10 tonnes of gold ore to the Centre on a daily basis.
“We have already started preparing ore which will be milled once the milling centre starts operating. It is also important to note that there will be a gold buying centre, which will be manned by Fidelity (Printers and Refineries) thus miners won’t have challenges of moving with the gold to sell it all the way to Bulawayo, which most of the time is risky,” said Mr Ncube.
A gold service centre is an establishment where all the functions related to gold mining — from extracting to processing and sales — are co-ordinated from. A typical gold service centre would comprise a clinic, offices of the Government’s official gold-buying firm Fidelity Printers and Refineries and firms that sell or hire mining equipment.
The centres will offer such services as gold milling, collection points and assist with environmental impact assessments.
Geologists, engineers and metallurgists will also be stationed at such centres. Millers and officials from the School of Mines will also set up bases at the centres to teach miners on health and safety issues. Gold service centres are aimed at boosting gold production and to curb leakages.
“This Centre will come in handy in the sense that it will house technocrats that will be imparting the requisite mining knowledge to the small-scale and artisanal miners. It will also play a part in formalising mining activities by this class of miners. Suffice to say small-scale miners have over the years been facing challenges with regards to lack of appropriate mining machinery,” said BSSMA secretary Mr Benjamin Ndlovu.
The Centre would offer various mining equipment and consumables, which include compressors, head gears, water pumps, generators and explosives. Zimbabwe Miners Federation spokesperson Mr Dosman Mangisi concurred with Mr Ndlovu stating that the establishment of gold service centres would go a long way towards formalising small-scale and artisanal miners’ operations.
“We really acknowledge efforts by the new Government of coming up with projects which are tailor-made for small-scale. In addition this will also focus on mechanisation, increase of production, securing of the reserves as well as imparting of skills to the miners. A lot of things in line with formalisation will be addressed since it’s a one-stop shop with technical people . . . ,” said Mr Mangisi.
The Government is set to roll-out other gold service centres in all the country’s gold mining districts.