US$100 million gold centres on cards
METBANK Limited has announced plans to invest US$100 million in the construction of state-of-the-art gold service centres countrywide in line with efforts to regularise and maximise production in the small scale gold mining sector.
This comes after the bank last month signed a corporation partnership with the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), the umbrella board representing small scale miners.
The financial service provider committed to fund small scale miners’ programmes to boost capacity in the sector, which now accounts for more than 52 percent of the country’s total gold deliveries.
The move is in line with Government’s efforts to boost gold deliveries from the current 24 tonnes achieved last year to an ambitious 100 tonnes annually.
On the peak of production in 1999, the miners produced 27 tonnes of the yellow metal. The figure plummeted to 3,8 tonnes in 2008 mainly due to economic challenges that resulted in massive side marketing as producers shunned Fidelity Printers’ prices.
Most of the country’s smuggled gold reportedly ended up in the South African gold market where producers claimed they were receiving better offers.
Metbank has embarked on a countrywide outreach exercise to look at the problems dogging the sector.
On Tuesday, the bank was in Bindura visiting Timsite Enterprise.
This is a gold milling centre owned by a Chinese Company and is modelled around the gold centre recently constructed by Government in Bubi, Matabeleland North.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail Business after touring the facility, Metbank executive director in charge of banking, Mr Ephraim Chawoneka said a service centre is largely the answer to most of the problems dogging the small scale gold mining sector.
The small scale miners have massive potential but lack financial and material resources to capitalise their operations. The Metbank facility might be a panacea to their challenges.
“As you might be aware, Metbank Limited has signed up a strategic agreement with Zimbabwe Miners Federation, where we are basically coming in to augment Government efforts to establish 10 centres of excellence which are meant to assist the artisanal and small scale miners,” said Mr Chawoneka.
“So as a financial institution, we realise that getting into that area, you need to get all the facts right. Seeing is believing and that is why we are here (site visiting).
“We have discussed with the small scale miners the challenges they are facing. From where we stand as a financial institution, we believe that we have gathered enough knowledge to sit down and craft financial packages that will help.”
Mr Chawoneka said the bank is looking at establishing at least one service centre in all the country’s provinces. The supplier’s local representatives said each will cost around $10 million.
If negotiations go well according to plan, Mr Chawoneka said the first centre could be up and running in the last quarter of the year, with several others set for commissioning next year.
Timsite Enterprise managing director Mr Chris Sheng said the plants his company is building are a popular technology with gold recoveries of up to 90 percent, up from 70 percent obtained in most plants operating in other parts of the world.
The low reach technology that has been used before in gold mining has been wasteful. Miners using top notch technology are yielding some fortunes from mine dumps several decades old.
Mr Chris said 169 people are currently employed at their Bindura plant, which could see over 1 600 people being employed if Metbank takes up the funding of such models.
President Mnangagwa has declared mining and agriculture as key to quick national economic recovery as the country works towards attaining middle income status by 2030.