Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) has entered into agreements with two local mining equipment manufacturers and suppliers for the provision of machinery to its affiliates as it moves to improve gold production.
ZMF first vice-president Mr Ishmael Kaguru said the organisation has entered into an agreement with Small Scale Mining Supplies, a company with has agreed to parcel out an assortment of mining components worth $200 000 on loan to small-scale miners.
The small-scale mining body has also entered into an agreement with Midlands Metal Engineering, a company which manufactures hammer mills and it has agreed in principle to empower small-scale miners through a hire purchase agreement.
“As ZMF we endeavour for the empowerment of small-scale miners and as such we have entered into an agreement with a company called Small Scale Mining Supplies. The company has agreed to parcel out an assortment of mining components worth $200 000 on loan to small-scale miners registered with us. The loan is payable after three years and has a grace period of three months and there is no collateral needed.
“The company will provide its own technical personnel, which will be monitoring mining activities at beneficiaries’ mines and we have recommended that only those that have the capacity to produce three grammes per tonne qualify under this scheme since they are likely to be able to service the loan. We think that it will go a long way in improving production by small-scale miners,” said Mr Kaguru.
One of Small Scale Mining Supplies’ senior executive Mr Laurence Cleminson confirmed that the company had entered into an agreement with ZMF for the supply of a complete mining plant and mining experts to small-scale miners across the country’s mining districts.
The company has been working on the project since 2009.
“Obviously as a manufacturer we have to look for a reputable organisation to deal with and we agreed on ZMF, the reason being ZMF are the people’s voice in mining and there is no point of reinventing the wheel . . . the problem we got in the small-scale mining sector is that people don’t have complete mining plants and we are putting in a balanced and complete plant what can be best termed as the 10 key project.
“It’s the starting point of a huge marriage between ZMF, Zimbabwe School of Mines, Environment Management Agency and Mineral Agencies because everyone is interested in ensuring that the gold goes through the right channel for the benefit of the country . . . We are looking at installing four plants per month,” said Mr Cleminson.
The company’s technical team is headed by one of the country’s renowned mining geologists, Mr Tension Hlathini.
Small Scale Mining Supplies is also looking forward to start manufacturing of chrome Washing Plants.
Mr Kaguru also said ZMF was in talks with a number of mining equipment manufacturers and suppliers to facilitate flexible packages for small-scale miners in need of machinery.
“We have also entered into a deal with Midlands Metal Engineering, a company which manufactures hammer mills and it has agreed in principle to empower small-scale miners through a hire purchase agreement. Under the agreement the miners will be supplied with hammer mills at zero deposit and pay after a stipulated period.
“However, the miner’s viability and contribution of deposits at Fidelity Printers will be considered. Atlas Copco is also working on a package it wants to unveil to small-scale miners and we have also approached quite a number of companies that are into manufacturing and supplying of mining equipment to offer flexibly packages for small-scale miners,” said Mr Kaguru.
ZMF chief executive officer Mr Wellington Takavarasha said that there has been little financial support for small-scale miners over the years
“Mining is capital intensive and without equipment production is very low. There has not been any finance to incentivise artisanal small-scale miners operations. Commercial banks and other micro-finance houses don’t understand operations of small-scale miners as they are sceptic about it.
“It is only now that Government through the RBZ has seen the importance and full potential of the artisanal small-scale mining sector by availing $40 million to the sector. The draw down now is currently at $12 million and the Ministry of Mines (and Mining Development) is availing $5 million under the Mining Industry Loan Fund,” Mr Takavarasha said.
Over the years artisanal and small-scale miners have reeled under high utilisation of rudimentary mining equipment, a situation, which has impacted negatively to their production.
“Over the years lack of mining equipment has really affected artisanal and small-scale miners. We have a number of mining equipment manufacturers in the country but the major setback has been failure by the miners to access funding but this $40 million funding has manage to close that void to a certain extent.
“Financial institutions were shunning small-scale miners and it’s only now that the RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) has realised their potential after having produced about 9, 8 tonnes of the 23 tonnes of gold achieved by gold miners last year. We are looking at producing 12 tonnes this year, which is the target which we have set for ourselves as small-scale miners,” said Mr Kaguru.
Late last year the Government through RBZ availed a $20 million gold development initiative facility for small-scale miners.
The fund which is being administered by Fidelity Printers and Refiners is meant to support small-scale and artisanal miners with bankable projects in order to increase gold production in the country.
The initiative also entails the formalisation process of small-scale gold producers in line with responsible gold mining standards.
The funding facility has since been increased to $40 million as the Government moves to capacitate small-scale miners who are fast becoming a major contributor to mining earnings.
Mr Kaguru said the potential by artisanal and small-scale miners to contribute immensely to the country’s Gross Domestic Product has not only been recognised by the Government but by various stakeholders in the mining sector.
“The potential by small-scale miners has even attracted equipment manufacturers. It’s not good to keep on importing. We have to support our own industry, which has the capacity. If we support our own companies, it will lead to employment creation both in the manufacturing and mining industry through improved production,” he said.
Apart from lack of mining equipment small-scale miners across all sectors are reeling from lack of basic infrastructure, lack of geological information of the ore bodies, unskilled labour force, scarce financial support, lack of collateral, engagement of child labour and compliance to legislative issues.