10 October 2017

Zimbabwe: Artisanal Miners Challenge Fidelity

Artisanal miners have challenged Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR) to support them with mining and milling equipment if it wants to get all of their gold. This came out during the first leg of the Gold Mobilisation Outreach programme held at two sprawling small-scale gold mining areas - Doxford and Msasa - in Mazowe last week.

The Gold Mobilisation Outreach programmes are being held as part of initiatives by FPR - gold buying unit of the RBZ - to conscientise artisanal miners on the importance of delivering gold to the formal channels so as at to achieve this year's target of 27 tonnes. An artisanal miner, Dickson Marizane, who was one of the almost 400 miners who were addressed separately during the two outreach meetings in Mazowe, said they are currently selling their gold to illegal dealers because they finance their operations.

"The illegal dealers who buy gold from us provide funds for transport to ferry ore to the mill, give us generators, diesel and sacks to load our ore. So what do you guys offer us so that we sell gold to you? If that is not addressed, it is difficult for us to sell our gold to Fidelity," shouted Mr Marizane from the crowd, much to the support of others.

FPR gold operations manager David Mpofu told artisanal miners that anyone who delivers gold to them would be assisted to get registered so that at this point when gold possession remains criminalised, they can operate freely. Mr Mpofu said small-scale miners that deliver gold to FPR stand to benefit from loans for mining equipment under the $40 million Gold Development Initiative Fund and a competitive price - which is 10 percent above the international price.

"Fidelity buys gold at a price higher than what illegal dealers give you. As at today (yesterday), we are buying at $42,80 per gramme. Our price is not fixed, but moves in line with what would be obtaining on the international market but we give 10 percent more. I have heard from some of you that illegal buyers are paying about $30 per gramme; you are losing out. So our agents will be buying gold from you at 2 percent lower than our price. Again, when you sell to us there is no risk of you getting fake notes because our money comes from the Reserve Bank," said Mr Mpofu.

FPR pays 60 percent of the total that an artisanal miner is due to get in United States dollars and 40 percent in bond notes. All the money is paid in cash to incentivise the miners. Mr Mpofu said 17 agents have been assigned to purchase gold from artisanal miners in Mazowe and Bindura. Small scale miners who sell gold to FPR will be assisted to register so that they are not harassed by police officers. Artisanal miners are still being arrested for illegal possession of gold, and as soon as the FPR team - which was accompanied by officials from the RBZ, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) and police - several miners arrived chronicling how they had just been brutally beaten by police officers for mining.

It is understood that there are turf wars in Mazowe between Metallon Gold's Mazowe Mine and small-scale miners that are illegally mining from its claims. However, FPR says artisanal miners with national identity documents, who sell gold to them can use receipts they get to avoid being arrested by law enforcement agencies.

The Herald Business understands that negotiations to decriminalise gold possession are at an advanced stage, with police stations across the country set to be served with letters directing them to stop arresting artisanal miners that sell gold to FPR. RBZ Principal Inspector - Exchange Control Inspectorate Paul Mapanzure, who was part of the Gold Mobilisation Outreach program, encouraged miners to consider opening accounts with banks so that some of their money can be wired to reduce demand for physical cash.

Miners who accept transfers will get a 5 percent incentive in bond notes. The Gold Mobilisation Outreach will cover nine provinces and will end on November 24. Small-scale miners have become critical producers in gold mining and deliveries, contributing 7,2 tonnes from January to August, compared to large-scale miners who delivered just over 7,4 tonnes.

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