By Sifiso Sibanda & Providence Maraneli
THE US$67 million investment by Caledonia Mining Corporation into a central mining shaft at Blanket Mine in Gwanda has been described as a vote of confidence in Zimbabwe’s investment climate.
The shaft was commissioned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa this Thursday.
Commissioning the mining shaft, President Mnangagwa said besides the positive impact on the province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it will create more jobs from the current 500 to 1600 workers, while revenue is set to shoot up to US$148 million dollars from US$123 million.
“I challenge other mining houses to increase investment in their operations for the realisation of maximum value from our mineral resource base for the good of the economy and our people in general. As government, we have made a bold decision to ensure that every citizen of Zimbabwe benefits from our natural resource endowment, now and into the future,” he said.
As confidence in the local investment climate continues to grow, the President noted that it should translate to self-belief in the local currency as government is only accepting a fraction of royalties in hard currency while the rest is in Zimbabwe dollars.
“Let me take this opportunity to confirm and advise all mining houses that my government does not accept royalties in US$ anymore, what we want is a fraction of that, so that we build our mineral reserves and benchmark our local currency against our stock of minerals as we also safeguard the interest of our future generations using our God given resources. This is a game changer in the development of our country and I take pride in this development,” he added.
President Mnangagwa spoke widely about the need for the country to invest more in innovation as the country’s focus is on accelerated industrialisation.
“In line with Vision 2030 and the National Development Strategy, greater effort should be put towards the value addition and beneficiation of our mineral resources and other primary products. We cannot, as a country continue to be exporting primary products including concentrates. Our people must fully enjoy the benefits of moving up the value chain such as increased profitability and terms of trade as well as employment and empowerment opportunities,” noted the President.
Turning to the local leadership, Cde Mnangagwa implored chiefs to take the lead in luring investors to their areas.
“Let me talk to you chiefs, you are key in the investment drive so I call on you to treat your investors good, be nice to them so that they also help in developing your areas and employ your children not what we used to do to hunt animals while there is more value in minerals,” he implored.
With the mining industry being the country’s major foreign currency earner, the increase in production by the Gwanda-based Blanket Mine does not only bring hope to the country but also feeds into the target of a US$12 billion mining economy by next year.
The 1200 metre shaft which gobbled in excess of US$67 million will see the mining giant’s gold output jumping from less than a quarter of a tonne per annum to 2.4 tonnes per annum.
“The increase in gold output will benefit all stakeholders in Blanket mine through increasing employment, higher profitability and increased contributions to the fiscus. Your Excellency, I would like to commend your government for continued efforts to make Zimbabwe a more attractive mining jurisdiction, this work is not in vein as evidenced by expanding mining output as well as Zimbabwe’s shortlisting as one of the most improved mining jurisdictions in the world,” said Mr Mark Learmoth Caledonia Mining Corporation chief executive officer.
Stakeholders who attended the commissioning of the shaft commended the Second Republic for the path it has taken in transforming the mining sector.
Chamber of Mines Chairman Mr Issac Kwesu said, “When you look at this project it means we expect growth in the mineral export. We expect an increase of 17% in gold only, coming from the construction of this central shaft and this will take us to another level and the industry will never be the same again.”
Government is on a massive drive to transform the mining industry, with the gold sector poised for greater heights after soaring during the COVID-19 pandemic when other minerals like diamonds and nickel tumbled on the international market.
“I am pleased to tell you that, the central shaft which is one of the deepest in the country will enable Blanket mine to increase production, which in turn is a step towards the attainment of a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023 . The economies of scale arising from the central shaft will contribute to managing costs on this mine, said Mines and Mining Development Minister, Honourable Winston Chitando.
The central shaft is part of the US$150 million investment, with US$67million going to the central shaft, while US$14 million went to the contraction of the 12 megawatt solar plant which has since been connected to the national grid.