Zimbabwe position a major gold producer continues to slide as its once mainstay gold mining industry continues to decline as a result of political and social unrest. Zimbabwe produced 12 562,3 kg of gold in 2003, down from 2002’s 15 468, 96 kg. Out of at least 500 hundred registered gold workings in Zimbabwe, several large scale mines exist in the central midlands region of Zimbabwe. Most of Zimbabwe’s larger gold mines have been based on previous smaller workings, therefore very few mines have been developed from grassroots level.
Zimbabwe’s gold producers have been placed under a lot pressure, following a dramatic rise in operating costs over the last few years. These rises have been primarily due to Zimbabwe’s restrictive foreign exchange laws as well as the artificial exchange rate between the Zimbabwe dollar and the US dollar. At the end of 2002 it was estimated that 45 significant gold mines (those producimng more than 10 oz/d) had closed. There was also been a wholesale withdrawal of small producers from the formal sector. About eight years ago there were over 1,000 such mines (‘smallworkings’) selling their gold, as required, to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. By the end of 2002, there were only about 30, and while many of these tiny operations have closed, there has been a countrywide switch to black market sales.
AngloGols Ashanti operates the Freda Rebecca mine, the smallest mine in the Ashanti Group’s stable, but also Zimbabwe’s richest. Production from the mine in 2003 was 51,091 oz at a cash operating cost of US$268/oz compared with 98,255 oz at US$214/oz achieved in 2002. The decline in production was a result of low availability of drill rigs and drilled reserves occasioned by a challenging environment.The deposit is amenable to open pit mining and a feasibility study is underway.
Falcon Gold is one of Zimbabwe’s oldest gold producers, with three surface and underground operations, viz ,Dalny, Golden Quarry and the Venice Mine. The continuing deterioration of the economy has forced Falcon Gold to close the Venice mine.
Anglo American opened the open cast Bubi mine, located 140km north of Bulawayo, in mid 1998. Annual production from Bubi is 16 000 oz as well as 19 000 oz the Isabella opencast operation. Bubi is a low grade deposit, averaging only 1g/ton from the oxide ore and less than 3g/ton from the more costly refractory sulphide ore.
Consolidated Trillion Resources is in the process of disinvesting its operational assets in Zimbabwe through the sale of its two gold mines in Zimbabwe, the Jena and Indarama Mine. The Jena mine is located in central Zimbabwe, approximately 270km from Harare. In 1999 the mine had total resources estimated at 1.7 Mt grading at 4.7 g/t or 7.8 t of gold and producing just over 15 000 oz gold in 1999. Trillion has sold its 50% share of the mine to its partner, the Zimbabwe Mineral Development Corporation (ZMDC) for $1.1 million.
Delta Gold has completed commissioning of the new Eureka mine, which has been a developed on top of previous workings. The mine is situated 150 km north of Harare in Zimbabwe. The mine has defined reserves of 438 000 oz gold and a total estimated resource of 1 Moz. The mine intends producing 60 000oz/year and at full production, Eureka will be the second largest gold producer in Zimbabwe. The mine is expected to have a life of mine of at least five years, based on current reserves and resources.
First Quantum Minerals operate the 95% owned Connemara heap leach open pit mine in central Zimbabwe. Connemara produced 21 500 oz gold in 1999 at a cash cost of $215 per oz, and has 7-8 years of reserves estimated at containing 3.2 Mt grading at 1.95 g/t or 199,407 oz gold.
Battlefield Minerals has developed its Pickstone – Peerless mine near Chigutu in Zimbabwe. The current resource has outlined 100 000 oz (opencast) at over 3g/t gold and almost 350 000 oz (underground) at 7.5g/t gold. A further 50 000 oz resource is located in tailings.
Kinross Gold operate the Blanket mine located in south western Zimbabwe, approximately 100km from Bulawayo. The mine is an underground mine with a tailings retreatment facility. Blanket produced approximately 34 500oz in 2000 at (rising) cash costs of $236/oz. The mine intends producing 47 000 oz gold in 2001 at cash costs of $200/oz. The mine has proven and probable reserves estimated at 2.8 Mt grading at 2.36 g/t gold.
Rio Tinto Zimbabwe (RTZ) is Zimbabwe’s second largest gold producer, operating the Eiffel flats dump retreatment mine and the Patchway and Renco gold mines. Rio Tinto has a 56% interest in RTZ. RTZ accounts for 10% of Zimbabwe’s production.
Conquest Resources plans to acquire 90% of the Babs and Beehive gold mines, previously owned by British based African Gold PLC (Afgold) that sold the assets to eliminate long term debt in the UK and Zimbabwe. Apart from the Babs and Beehive acquisitions, Conquest also operates several other gold mines: Glencairn, Blue Rock and Shamrock mines. The Beehive complex consists of the Babs, Beehive, the small Antelope and the Eva open pit as well as a central milling and processing plant.
However, African Gold still operates the Inez Mine, situated west of Kadoma in central Zimbabwe. The Inez mine has reserves estimated at containing 645 000 t grading at 10.12 g/t, resulting in a total of 210 500 oz gold. Development of the Beehive complex was placed on standby due to reduced funding on the basis of Zimbabwe’s worsening political and economical situation. The Inez mine operations have been downscaled in the light of the economic downturn and the mine’s production has been reduced to a mere 30 oz gold per week.
Independent Gold (Indepgold) is the Zimbabwe gold production arm of UK based Lonmin plc that operates 8 gold mines in Zimbabwe, viz. Arcturus, How, Anzac, Mazowe, Muriel, Redwing, Shamva and Tiger Reef mines which collectively produced 189 000 ounces in 2000, producing more than 20% of Zimbabwe’s gold output. Indep are also evaluating the Tafuna Hill region with Canadian Mandorin Goldfields. In order to focus on its South African assets, Lonmin has sold its gold interests to a South African empowerment company headed up by Mzi Khumalo.
In November 2002, Lonrho Mining (Lonmin) sold its remaining gold mines to Pemberton International Investments for US$15.5 million. The five mines in the group produce about 170,000 oz/y, or over a third of Zimbabwe’s official output. Pemberton is effectively controlled by tAfrican Mining Group of South Africa. Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. also shut down its major gold producer, Sabi in 2002.
Through its local subsidiary, Ashanti operates the Freda Rebecca gold mine in Zimbabwe.
BM Diamondcorp Inc.
Conquest Resources Limited
Conquest Resources operate several small to medium scale gold mines in the Midlands and Mount Darwin areas.
Falcon Gold Zimbabwe Ltd
Founded in 1991. Gold mining and dump retreatment. The Company owns Dalny Mine in Chakari, Venice Mine in Kadoma and Golden Quarry Mine in Shurugwi.
First Quantum Minerals Ltd
Kinross Gold Corporation
Through subsidiary Indepgold, Lonmin is a major gold producer in Zimbabwe.
Rio Tinto Plc
Rio Tinto has a 56% interest in Rio Tinto Zimbabwe (RTZ) that operates the Renco and Patchway gold mines in Zimbabwe.