15 March 2017

Zimbabwe: Small Gold Mines Need De-Watering

SMALL-scale gold miners in southern parts of the country may require extensive technical and financial support to expeditiously de-water the mines and resume production from shafts that were recently flooded by incessant rains.

The miners produced 9,68 tonnes last year, representing about 40 percent of the country's total bullion production.

Gold is Zimbabwe's second biggest foreign currency earner after tobacco, which racked in $600 million last year.

The flooded mines may hamper production this year and make it difficult for Zimbabwe to reach its 25 tonnes gold output target, according to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, which would translate into a 17 percent increase on 2016.

Some of the small miners told The Herald Business last week that the recent cyclone induced heavy rains flooded shafts with vertical depth of 15 metres to 50m vertical and inclined shafts stretching to 150m.

Mining shafts on fried rocks have collapsed while most roads to the mines were left extensively damaged with many access bridges washed away, making it impossible for the small-scale miners to access their mining locations.

Moving gold ore was or is still a challenge as transporters are wary of the impassable muddy roads, which may result in trucks carrying the bullion getting stuck. The cost of pumping water has tripled due to the water logging.

While the rains have subsided, in Matobo District, Matebeleland South, 80 percent of miners are still affected and have not been operating.

Miners who used to produce up to a kilogramme of gold per month saw production dropping to as low as 100 grammes over a similar period of time.

Some of the small-scale miners have had to resort to waste rock to eke a living. Small-scale gold miners in Lower Gwelo, in the Midlands Province, who used to produce between 70g and

100g per month have been producing about 12g. Out of 30 miners only about 5 are active.

"The approximate cost of pumping water using 2 horse power pump ranges up to $100 over 8 hours," said Blessing Murenga who mines in Kwekwe.

"The water in some areas is unmanageable due to loose rock and miners are in fear of mining incidents e.g. collapsing of shafts."

As of last week, about 10 percent of the small-scale miners in Gwanda, Matabeleland South and Mberengwa (Midlands) were active after being affected by the heavy rains in the southern region.

In Bubi, Matabeleland North, and Shangani in Matebeleland South, miners faced challenges accessing mines due to flooding of shafts.

The small-scale gold miners have also lost machinery such as compressors, generators, water pumps and jack hammers, which was covered by water in side shafts and most low lying areas.

According to small miners lobby group, Zimbabwe Miners' Federation, in Mberengwa leaching and cyanidation processing had been severely affected due to excessive run-off water into leaching plants.

"Also the use of earthmoving machinery is hampered due to damaged roads. About 90 percent of miners are affected here," said Peter Moyo a small-scale miner in Mberengwa District.

A small-scale gold miner in Kadoma Mashonaland West Province lost $10 500 on a shaft he had developed, but collapsed owing to the flooding.

The Zimbabwe Miners' Federation said there is need to take a proper analysis of the situation on the ground in the affected areas, mostly southern parts of the country such as Midlands and Matabeleland.

"It is of great importance if the Mines Inspectorate and Engineers have a technical mine audit to evaluate the extent and threats imposed by the cyclonic rainfalls so as to counteract on mine accidents in form of ground collapse, drowning, electrocution," said ZMF in a recommendation submitted to Government.


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