ZIMBABWEâ€™S gold output fell by 49% last year owing to an operating environment the Chamber of Mines described as â€œdismal and gloomyâ€.
Zimbabwe produced 3 576 tonnes of bullion last year compared to 7 018 tonnes in the prior year, the chamber said.
â€œDuring the year 3 576 tonnes was produced compared to 7 018 tonnes reported in 2007, a decline of 49%,â€according to the Chamber of Mines annual report.
David Murangari, Chamber of Mines president, attributed the fall in gold production to a difficult operating environment last year.
â€œThe performance of the Zimbabwean mining industry in 2008 is best described as dismal and gloomy,â€ Murangari added.
Zimbabweâ€™s gold mining industry has been hard hit by the countryâ€™s economic meltdown as more mines stopped operations.
Speaking at the Chamber of Mines Annual General Meeting (AGM) held last week in the capital, a departure from the traditional Victoria Falls venue, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the mining sector presented the country with a ready opportunity to attract significant investment.
â€œGovernment has a window of opportunity to prepare a conducive policy environment by mid 2010. that could see Zimbabweâ€™s mineral sector attracting between six billion and 16 billion in exploration and mine development investment during 2011-2018 period,â€ he said.
According to Murangari the majority of mines need to be recapitalised.
â€œMost mines operated under extremely difficult macro-economic conditions for the first nine months of the year. Most importantly, there is dire need for recapitalisation of the industry… the current world recession was something that we in Zimbabwe had not anticipated,â€ said Murangari.
Gold earnings in the first half of the year also declined to US$62 million compared to US$94 million earned the previous year.
Although gold sector earnings have declined, platinum production increased by 8.5% in 2008 compared to 2007.
Annual platinum output increased from 5 085,74kg in 2007 to 5 495,10kg in last year.
Gold miners are still to be paid US$30 million for gold deliveries made to the central bank last year.
BY CHRIS MURONZI