Gold production by small-scale miners has increased by 150kg per month after recent moves by the cash-strapped government to securitise the gold mining sector.
Police and intelligence agents have been brought in to curb smuggling of the precious mineral, particularly by small-scale miners.
The past three months have seen government deploying special police details from the Criminal Investigations Department’s minerals unit, army personnel, intelligence officers and officials from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and Fidelity Printers and Refiners, which is an arm of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), at gold mines and stamping mills around the country to plug leakages of the mineral.
Gold is frequently smuggled to South Africa or sold to private buyers who pay more than government.
A document prepared by Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa last month outlines measures, which include establishing a Gold Compliance and Enforcement Co-ordination Unit (GCECU) with security organs, suggesting militarisation of mines is underway.
Mining expert Toendepi Muganyi revealed that gold contribution by small-scale miners has increased from about 250kg per month to more than 400kg in the last two to three months.
Muganyi, who is also Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines vice-president, said the increased enforcement and monitoring is starting to bear fruit as the gold contribution by small-scale miners has “increased from about 250kg per month to above 400kg per month in these last two to three months”.
The increase in small-scale miners’ contribution translates to 2,4 more tonnes of gold per year after government’s intervention.
The police as well the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) are represented in the GCECU along with the Finance and Local Government ministries, the RBZ, Environmental Management Agency and Zimra.
This unit, said Chidhakwa, will have the “overarching responsibility of co-ordinating all the gold compliance and enforcement operations across all gold producing areas in the country to arrest gold leakages and ensure increased gold sales/deliveries to Fidelity”.
Small-scale miners in the Matabeleland North and South provinces who spoke to this paper accused government of bringing in police to force them to sell all their gold to Fidelity.
The miners complained that at US$32 per gramme, the RBZ is paying much lower than the world and black market prices of about US$40 per gramme.