Government is forging ahead with its quest to decentralise economic activities across the country, with a local firm, Better Brands having been granted a licence to construct Zimbabwe’s second gold refinery in Bulawayo.
Presently, Fidelity Gold Refiners (FGR) is the only centre for purification of the yellow metal, but the situation is set to change with other entities like Better Brands coming on board.
“I am very happy to announce that after being given the gold refinery licence, work has commenced in Bulawayo with respect to the construction and we expect this to be completed during the year such that it coincides with the attainment of the mining vision,” said Pedzisai Scott Sakupwanya, founder of Better Brands.
The second gold refinery is being set up in Bulawayo this year in a major step towards liberalising the gold mining sector and anchoring efforts to achieve the 100-tonne annual gold delivery target set by the government.
The refinery will be operated by Better Brands, the biggest gold-buying company in Zimbabwe which delivered more than 52 percent of the 35 tonnes delivered to Fidelity Printers and Refiners last year.
“Last year Better Brands delivered 18 tonnes of the yellow metal hence our allocation of the licence to Better Brands which will develop the country into a gold trading hub in the region,” said Sakupwanya.
Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Polite Kambamura, confirmed the development which seeks to enhance gold mobilisation initiatives.
“The refinery will be set up this year and these are measures aimed at harnessing gold deliveries. In the past miners and buyers would travel to Harare to sell their gold hence this move enhances gold mobilisation efforts to achieve a 100-tonne annual gold target,” said the deputy minister.
In sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa there were until 2012 only a handful of refineries, as many as 26 are now either operating or under construction across 14 countries.
Commenting on the development, economist Takudzwa Maradze noted; “The only way to stop gold smuggling is having multiple refineries in Africa and with this second refinery in the country, if constructed will offer an alternative to the existing one for miners, especially small scale miners in the southern region.”
Economist Tinevimbo Shava said, the move comes at an opportune time in Zimbabwe’s development matrix with regards to value addition and beneficiation of the country’s natural resources.
“Zimbabwe has been lagging behind in terms of moving up the value addition ladder hence the investment by Better Brands is welcome considering the contribution of the Southern region in gold production over the years,” he said.
However, Shava was worried about the transparency of operations to be conducted at the said refinery as most of these refineries in Africa are not being audited.
“The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has developed global sourcing standards against which it recommends refineries are audited. Outside South Africa, no African refineries have yet followed that recommendation, and we hope the new refinery will adhere to the standards,” said Shava
The new development comes as the country has only one gold refinery, the Fidelity Gold Refinery which was commissioned in 1988, and has an installed refining capacity of 50 tonnes of gold annually and embedded capacity of netting to a purity level of up to 99.999 percent.
Wholly owned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), FGR’s core business currently incorporates Gold Refining, Buying Operations, administering of the Gold Development Initiative Fund (GDIF) and security and commercial printing. All these products and services are said to be of the highest quality meeting international standards.