A coal grant secured by United Kingdom-based mining group Cluff Africa Associates Ltd (Cluff) as part of its efforts to invest in Zimbabwe is yet to be signed by government more than six years after its approval, businessdigest has learnt.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
Cluff Africa was founded by Algy Cluff, and Zimbabwe-born engineer and CE Douglas Chikohora, to take advantage of non-gold exploration opportunities in Africa, focussing on energy minerals such as coal and uranium, base metals and industrial minerals, including limestone.
Chikohora told businessdigest that since getting the Gwayi coal grant in 2011 after paying US$100 000, it is yet to be signed with the mining group being told it was with the President’s Office when they made enquiries about the grant.
“I took a conscious decision with the support of the board that having left the mining industry in Zimbabwe in 1987, that 2010 was a time I should look home,” Chikohora said. “We submitted an application for the a coal grant in the Gwayi area and the application went through the technical review, including presentations to the Mining Affairs Board and was approved subject to Cluff paying a fee of US$100 000. This was done in 2011 and up to this day we are still waiting for the grant to be signed.”
Chikohora revealed that he was always being asked about the grant in board meetings. He said while waiting for the grant to be signed, his company looked at other investment opportunities in Zimbabwe, including the revival of the Kamativi tin mine which shut down in 1994.
“We really invested a lot in the bidding process (for Kamativi) including consultative meetings with the communities in the area and other stakeholders,” Chikohora said. “Our bid got to a stage where we are told that it was just two companies in the ring.”
He said the bidding exercise involved taking executives from the state-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation to Burkina Faso for a week to have first-hand appreciation of what they were doing at the Kalsaka Gold Mine in terms of the ability to run a mine and ability to establish cordial community and government relations.
“Unfortunately, the bid was unsuccessful at the last minute and really the winner here were the lawyers who went away with close to US$100 000 in fees,” Chikohora noted. “I say this because Cluff ‘lost’ and I stand corrected to say, I believe nothing significant has happened on the ground at Kamativi Mine and consequently the community in the area are no better from the time we engaged them.”
Mines permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga, in an interview with a local weekly last year, said that an intended partnership between ZMDC and Chinese company China Beijing Pinchang to revive Kamativi had all but fallen through.
“At Kamativi, we had wanted to go into a partnership with a Chinese company. Due diligence was done by ZMDC and they were not satisfied with the status of the company they intended to enter into a joint venture with and therefore we are yet to see their formal recommendation not to pursue that joint venture,” Gudyanga said.
Chikohora said Cluff had also looked at Sabi Gold Mine, but discussions had not gone further than a site visit.
However, Chikohora said they would continue to scout for investment opportunities in Zimbabwe despite the frustrations they have experienced.
“It took me 20 years to secure Poura (mine in Burkina Faso). So we do have the patience. However, it is really the communities who suffer as a result,” Chikohora said.
Cluff has since the late 1990s commissioned the Kalaska Gold Mine in Burkina Faso, Angovia Gold Mine in Ivory Coast, completed a feasibility study at Baomahun Gold Project in Sierra Leone with additional investments in Senegal, Mali and Guinea.
This comes at a time when the country’s foreign direct inflows have continued to decline. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Zimbabwe’s FDI inflows plummeted from US$545 million in 2014 to US$421 million in 2015. Zimbabwe ranks very low on the ease of doing business index due to political, bureaucratic and legal barriers to business. Its investment climate is hostile as a result of political and policy impediments.