The Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) is targeting an annual output of least 80 tonnes of gold from small scale and unregistered miners under its gold mopping exercise, 263Chat Business has learnt.
The exercise is part of ZMF's three-year strategy (2020-2023) which seeks to integrate output from unregistered miners into mainstream channels at a time the country is losing an estimated one tonne of gold every month to the black market.
"Under the gold mopping exercise, we are targeting 80 tonnes per year. We have gold mining hotspots across the country that are well known were illegal mining activities are taking place. We are talking about people who are not registered. We have places we know we can recover 6kgs a day and those areas are not registered so that gold finds itself into the black market," ZMF chief executive, Wellington Takavarasha told 263Chat Business in an interview.
Gold deliveries from small scale miners have improved in recent years with the sub-sector delivering 22 tonnes to the country's sole gold buyer, Fidelity Printers in 2018, despite a setback last year where volumes receded to 17 tonnes.
"There is about one tonne of gold a month that goes into black market from these unregistered miners because we only have got 16 percent that are registered from all small scale miners we have," Takavarasha added.
However, success in the gold mopping exercise faces two complex issues.
Firstly, the Gold Trade Act which criminalizes possession of gold in the absence of a gold permit.
This stands as a major stumbling block for most unregistered miners to bring forth their mineral produce for fear of persecution.
Secondly, government's foreign currency retention scheme which demands that miners get only 55 percent of their earnings in foreign currency with 45 percent received in local currency.
Given the currency instability in the economy, miners are reluctant to cede some of their foreign currency earnings to government.
Authorities are seemingly reluctant to revise the foreign currency retention model particularly at a time the country is in dire need of foreign reserves to meet its external payment obligations such as fuel and electricity procurement.
Government has however been encouraging unregistered miners to formalize their operations for easier accountability of mineral operations but this has come somewhat limited success.
Zimbabwe is targeting 100 tonnes of gold annually by year 2023 from both large scale companies and small scale producers.