Zimbabwe boasts a long history of mining. The country is rich in natural resources with known occurrences of over 40 minerals; primarily gold, nickel and copper, but also coal, diamonds, platinum and chromite.
The Zimbabwean gold mining industry has operated for over 100 years and there is a well-established base of mining skills, expertise and local suppliers. Zimbabwe has produced significant amounts of gold and production peaked in 1906 at about 30 tonnes and in 1999 at 27 tonnes.
Between 2000 and 2008, a sustained and broad-based decline in economic activities led to a cumulative decline of over 50% in real GDP growth. The crisis can be attributed largely to a combination of factors, including economic mismanagement, poor governance mainly arising from weaknesses in the rule of law in the context of the Government’s fast-tracked land reform program, the loss of support from the international community, capital ﬂight, and low investment. The inﬂation rate moved to severe hyperinﬂation in 2007 and 2008, unemployment reached 90%, and the Zimbabwean dollar was deemed worthless.
Due to this economic crisis, gold production fell to only 3.5 tonnes in 2008 and by the end of 2008 gold mining operations in Zimbabwe were suspended as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was unable to finance any payments for gold purchases. All of Metallon’s mining operations were placed on care and maintenance. Zimbabwe lost a golden opportunity to take advantage of the lengthy sustained worldwide commodity price boom during 2003-08.
In February 2009, the newly installed national unity government allowed foreign currency transactions as an economic stimulus and to end inflation. In April 2009, the Zimbabwean dollar was replaced by the US dollar in government transactions. Since this time efforts have been in place to reinvigorate the financial system and economic growth has been on the rebound with GDP growing by more than 5% in 2009 and 2011. In November 2010, the IMF described the Zimbabwean economy as "completing its second year of buoyant economic growth".
In 2010 mining activities in Zimbabwe recommenced and production has been ramping up steadily, despite operations needing significant rehabilitation and recapitalisation. Metallon has been focused on bringing gold production back capacity levels and in 2016 over 94,212 ounces was produced and over 115,000 ounces are expected in 2017. For the whole of Zimbabwe gold production was 18.6 tonnes in 2015, still below historic production.
The Zimbabwean Government recognises that the mining industry is crucial to the growth and re-construction of the Zimbabwean economy. Despite many challenges, the mining sector is expected to be the primary driver of growth in the near term and will attract the most foreign direct investment into the country.
As an established producer, Metallon has a good relationship with the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. All gold produced in Zimbabwe is sold to Fidelity Printers, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Once gold is delivered to the refinery, the payment of 100% of the spot gold price is made directly to Metallon with the 5% royalty deducted. The Mine and Minerals Act is the principal law governing mining in Zimbabwe. This law provides security of tenure and has clear provisions for acquisition, maintenance and relinquishing of mining title. The Act has been in force since 1965 and has served both Zimbabwe and mining companies well.
The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act states that 51% of the equity of all commercial enterprises in Zimbabwe must be owned by Indigenous Zimbabweans. However, regulations issued in April 2016 allow existing mines, such as Metallon, to continue operations if the local content they retain in Zimbabwe is not less than 75 percent of gross value of the exploited resources. The regulations describe this local content as wages, salaries, taxation, community ownership schemes, and other activities such as procurement and linkage programmes.
Metallon strongly believes that given appropriate and business-friendly policies, the mining sector could contribute to economic growth and development in Zimbabwe. Mining activities are an important source of public revenue and assist in job creation, diversification of the economy and poverty reduction.
The prevailing taxation regime for mining companies in Zimbabwe includes the following provisions:
- Corporate income tax is at 25%.
- Exploration, development and capital costs can be expensed against profit in the year incurred or capitalised over the life of mine.
- Royalty rate is 5% of turnover with effect from 1 October 2014.
- Exemptions on customs duty and import taxes on capital items during exploration and development phases.
- Withholding tax on dividend payments to non-Zimbabweans and on services provided by foreign suppliers at a rate of 5% - 15% depending on the location of the payee.
The geology in Zimbabwe comprises of the Zimbabwe Craton, a greenstone belt that outcrops along a north-eastern trend through the centre of the country. The greenstone belts include ultramafic to felsic volcanic rocks, frequently displaying bimodal assemblages. In addition volcaniclastic to epiclastic lithologies are widespread within the greenstone belts, as are banded iron formations (“BIF”) and various sub-volcanic mafic to ultramafic igneous intrusions. Most Zimbabwean gold deposits are spatially and structurally associated with deformation zones or with major folds between deformation zones. Lithology is also an important control and gold-bearing shear zones are commonly located along contacts where there is a significant competency contrast between two rock types. In all there are approximately 6,000 known gold occurrences within the Zimbabwe Craton. Of these known gold occurrences, quartz veins host about 60%, shear zones host 20%, BIFs host 15% and other rock types 5%. Metallon’s assets are located in numerous greenstone belts across the country such as the Harare, Shamva, Mutare and Bulawayo Greenstone belts.
Mining and Metallurgy
In Metallon’s mines access to the orebody is by means of vertical or sub-vertical shafts sunk from the surface and/or adits developed horizontally to access orebodies located within topographical highs. In certain instances sub-vertical shafts are developed and combined with horizontal development at various intervals (known as levels) extends access to the horizon of the orebody to be mined.
The process of ore removal starts with drilling and blasting the accessible ore. The blasted stopes are then cleaned and the ore is transferred to the transport system. In Metallon’s underground mines, once ore has been broken, trains collect ore from the stopes and transfer it directly to surface or to a series of ore passes that gravity feed the ore to the hoisting level at the bottom of the shaft. The ore is then hoisted to the surface in dedicated conveyances and transported either by conveyor belts directly or via surface railway systems or roads to the metallurgical processing plants.
Zimbabwe made significant progress in infrastructure in its early period as an independent state, building a national electricity network with regional interconnections, an extensive and internationally connected road network, and a water and sewer system. The country was unable to maintain its existing infrastructure during the economic turmoil of the 1990s and now faces major infrastructure challenges. Metallon has adequate access to the specific infrastructure it requires in order to operate efficiently with paved roads to all of its mining operations and electrical power from the national grid.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) is responsible for providing the country with electrical energy. Zimbabwe has two larger facilities for the generation of electrical power, the Kariba Dam (owned together with Zambia) and since 1983, by the Hwange Thermal Power Station adjacent to the Hwange coal field. However, total generation capacity does not meet the demand which has led to power shortages. Metallon has agreed a slightly higher price with ZESA of $0.12 per kw hour to ensure there is continuous power supply at all mining operations.
Despite Zimbabwe being a semi-arid country, with low mean annual rainfall, there is a sufficient water supply. An extensive network of dams has been constructed throughout the country, and numerous boreholes and wells have been drilled to access underground water. Metallon has adequate access to water supplies for all its mining operations.
Zimbabwe has historically had a strong and highly effective educational system. Due to large investments in education since independence Zimbabwe has the highest adult literacy rate in Africa which in 2013 was 90.70%. Despite a shortage of funding in recent years, the general levels of education in the Zimbabwean workforce are very high and this is reflected by the Metallon labour force consisting of over 95% of Zimbabwe nationals.
For more information on mining in Zimbabwe some links are available below:
The Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe: http://www.chamberofminesofzimbabwe.com/
Ministry of Mines and Mining Development: http://www.mines.gov.zw/
Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ): www.mmcz.co.zw
Zimbabwe National Water Authority: http://www.zinwa.co.zw/