THE Environmental Management Agency (Ema) has issued the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) with a certificate to commence mining operations in the Gache-Gache area where gold deposits worth millions of dollars were discovered, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
This comes as plans are underway for the state-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) to take over the project.
Gold deposits along Gache-Gache River were discovered last year by a private company, Townsend Enterprises, which was sub-contracted by the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) to supply sand to Chinese firm Sino Hydro for the construction of Kariba South Power Station from a concession on the river.
Townsend tried numerous times without luck to get a special dispensation grant from government to recover the gold in the sand used for construction. Government’s refusal to grant the special dispensation was informed by a rule that riverbed mining is exclusively reserved for the state.
It is estimated that the country lost an estimated three kilogrammes of gold per day to the dam wall during the time Townsend Enterprises was operating, costing the country more than US$35 million in potential earnings. The price of gold is currently pegged at US$40 000 per kilogramme.
Government in 2014 banned alluvial mining on riverbeds, banks, wetlands and any land within 200 metres of naturally defined banks. This was done through Statutory Instrument 92 of 2014, Environmental Management (Control of Alluvial Mining) Regulations.
According to sources, discussions are taking place to extend Townsend’s contract to supply sand to Sino Hydro for the construction of Kariba South Power Station.
ZCDC last year began extracting gold without approval from Ema after it purchased gold recovery equipment worth US$173 000. However, operations were suspended by Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa who advised the firm to comply with Ema’s environmental regulations.
According to sources close to the developments, before ZCDC operations were stopped, the plant operated on a 24-hour basis. Production output at the plant was not disclosed, with officials saying the company was carrying out exploration work and not mining.
ZCDC acting chief executive Ridge Nyashanu spoke about the project in an interview this week.
“The project is compliant and Ema has issued us with a certificate to commence mining operations.”
“Currently we are mobilising resources and are in the construction phase as per our Ema requirements for mining to commence,” Nyashanu said.
He said he could not reveal how soon mining operations will resume as the company was still mobilising resources.
ZMDC acting general manager Farai Karonga said discussions were underway with the Ministry of mines for his firm to take over the gold project.
“It would only make sense for ZMDC to take over gold mobilisation therefore you will see progress in that regard within the first quarter of the year,” Karonga said.
Mines deputy minister Fred Moyo confirmed that ZMDC would take over from ZCDC and supervise the gold mining project. Moyo said it was a mistake that ZCDC was in charge as there are no diamonds at the Gache-Gache area.