‘Illegal panners won’t boost gold output’

GOVERNMENT’S decision to regularise activities of illegal panners will not have immediate impact on gold output, Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (CMZ) chief economist Issac Kwesu said.

Report by Taurai Mangudhla

In an effort to boost mineral production and grow the economy, President Robert Mugabe last week said steps were underway to decriminalise activities of illegal panners, who are mostly active in the gold sector.

The move allows the players, now recognised as artisans, to operate in a legal and properly managed manner as the country seeks to boost mineral production and meet the extractive industry’s projected 17 % annual growth target for 2012.

Unless government ensures the newly licensed miners get access to adequate capital and critical equipment, Kwesu said, the impact of the decision might barely be felt, particularly in the short-term.
“This will definitely mean we have more players in production, but output depends on whether or not government puts in place policies that support the artisanal miners,” he said.

“Growth in output may be seen in the medium- to long-term and it depends on access to capital and critical mining equipment which is required to produce substantial amounts of minerals because the illegal panners normally use pick and shovel.”

Small scale producers, who include illegal panners, have made significant contributions to gold mining in recent years.

In an update, the African Development Bank (AfDB) last week said Zimbabwe’s gold deliveries by primary producers declined by 9,17% from August 2012 to September 2012, whilst deliveries by small scale producers increased by 2,02 %, resulting in an overall decline in total gold deliveries by 7,14%.

The regional bank said a comparison of deliveries in September 2011 and September 2012 shows deliveries by primary producers increased by 2,49%, while those by small-scale producers declined by 14,74 %, resulting in a 1,48% decline in total gold deliveries.

According to AfDB, gold deliveries in Zimbabwe grew by 30,7% in the first half of 2012 from the comparable period in 2011, on account of firming prices on the international market.

In 2012, gold production is expected to reach 15 000kg despite a downward review on overall mining growth from the MTP’s targeted 20% to 17%.