GOVERNMENT has shutdown Better Brands Mining (Pvt) Ltd in Penhalonga, Manicaland province over increased number of fatalities, security issues and environmental concerns.
The suspension of operations comes hard on the heels of the miner having delivered 52 percent of the 35 tonnes of the yellow metal delivered last year to Fidelity Gold Printers, the country’s sole gold buyer.
The closing down comes after Better Brands Mining (BBM) has also been granted a licence by the Government to build Zimbabwe’s second gold refinery in Bulawayo.
Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister, Dr Polite Kambamura, yesterday said the closure of the mine was in line with the Mines and Minerals Amendment Act that mining houses should conduct their activities responsibly while the nation benefits from its resources.
“We are aware of the suspension of surface and underground operations by Better Brands Mining in accordance with the Mines and Minerals Amendment Act.
“The miner has taken heed of our advice to suspend operations until proper mining standards are in place. As Government, we only don’t want gold from the miners but we also value the succinct of life, environmental concerns have to be adhered to and we also want the miner to give security access at the mine,” he said.
Dr Kambamura said the Government was happy that the miner has cooperated in addressing the issues raised.
This paper understands that last year the gold operation lost 17 people due to accidents at the mine while four lives have already been lost this year.
“We are happy that the miner has agreed to address the issues raised and the mining is working hand-in glove with the Government to ensure that Better Brands operates responsibly.
The miner has agreed to restructure and rehabilitate the mine field,” he said.
BBM, in conjunction with hundreds of small-scale mining investors, commonly referred to as sponsors, are undertaking gold mining activities in Penhalonga where Redwing Mine used to operate.
According to correspondence co-signed by the company’s general manager, Cuthbert Chitima and the mine manager, a A. Guyo dated January 20, 2023, seen by this publication, BBM would use the suspension of operations period to restructure and rehabilitate the mining field.
“BBM hereby advises its valued stakeholders that all surface mining operations shall be suspended with immediate effect; mainly due to concerns in the increased number of fatalities, environmental degradation and constrained access controls.
“BBM shall take this opportunity to restructure and rehabilitate the mining field in preparation for resumption of surface and underground mining operations. We shall be advising on progress,” reads part of the correspondence.
Efforts to get a comment from Chitima were unsuccessful as his mobile number was not going through by the time of going to print yesterday.
The small-scale mining industry contributes about 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s gold deliveries to Fidelity Gold Refiners. In 2022, the small-scale mining industry contributed over 25 tonnes.
Last year’s output outshines the previous record of 33,2 tonnes achieved in 2018 where the small-scale miners, just like the previous years, produced the bulk of the gold.
The mining industry is Zimbabwe’s major economic centrepiece to drive the country towards the envisaged upper-middle income economy status by 2030.
In 2019, the Second Republic launched the US$12 billion mining economy by 2023 from which the gold sub-sector is expected to contribute US$4 billion.
The US$12 billion milestone is underpinned by the re-opening of closed mines, increasing mineral exploration activities and the opening of new mines to increase output.
The Second Republic targets at least 100 tonnes of the bullion by 2030 as the country would have been transformed to an upper-middle income economy through transformative policies such as the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1).
The Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), which represents the interest of the small-scale miners, says it targets 80 tonnes of gold over the next two years and this is underpinned by the transformative and supportive policies.
“As small-scale miners, we are targeting 80 tonnes of gold over the next two years. We are optimistic that our projection is achievable on account of improved support that we continue to receive from the Government.
“The gold mining sub-sector and the entire mining industry is receiving massive support from this current Government under President Mnangagwa,” he told The Sunday Mail in a recent interview.
NDS 1, which builds to Vision 2030 is a five-year economic development programme running between 2021 and 2025 after which it will be replaced by NDS 2, another five-year development policy.