US$100 mil­lion gold cen­tres on cards

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - BUSINESS - Ishe­mu­n­y­oro Ching­were

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.

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