All that glitters is not copper

MINING in Zambia history and future indicates that on a small scale, the mining activities by the natives were widespread across the Copperbelt region and other places

SINCE the 1920s, Zambia has been a copper mining country with its economy being driven by the red metal.
Despite copper being prominent, it is also evident that Zambia is endowed with other minerals such as emeralds, amethyst and gold, which are mainly characterised by artisanal mining activities.
Gold, for instance, is being mined illegally in various districts, thus denying the country the opportunity to collect revenue.
In view of the gold potential and its potential being undermined by illegal mining, Government wants to organise the sector to enable it to contribute to the treasury.
Steps are being taken as witnessed by declaring gold as a strategic mineral, with the development of a special purpose vehicle to be owned by ZCCM-Investment Holding (IH) being among the steps.
Through ZCCM Gold Company Limited (ZGC), investments throughout the gold value chain to include exploration, mining, processing, refining, marketing and trading and beneficiation in Zambia will be undertaken, according to ZCCM-IH chief executive officer Mabvuto Chipata.
It is expected that this year 40,000 kilogrammes of gold will be collected from primary and secondary sources that will include artisanal and small-scale gold miners.
The gold will be sold to the Bank of Zambia to help in building reserves.
 Mr Chipata said ZCCM-IH has also undertaken the initial exploration works in Mwinilunga’s Kasenseli, in collaboration with the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development Geological Survey.
The exploration for primary gold source will be happening in tandem with preparatory works that will pave way for mining activities within this quarter.
“One of the steps towards the formalisation of the artisanal and small-scale gold miners ZCCM-IH has embarked on is to set up gold buying centres in strategic gold panning areas. ZCCM-IH has already obtained a mineral trading licence for this purpose,” Mr Chipata said.
The initial sites include Rufunsa, Vubwi, Luano, Petauke, Senga Hill and Mumbwa and will be rolled out to other areas in the country with gold occurrences.
The formalisation will also go a long way in curbing the smuggling of gold out of the country; provide an open market and competitive prices for the artisanal gold miners; and ultimately take stock of the gold output from artisanal miners.
Indeed, with about 21 districts having active gold mining activities, it is only necessary that the sector is well organised so that the country’s goals of broadening the tax base can be achieved.
The districts are Solwezi, Mwinilunga, Kasempa, Mumbwa, Kabwe, Chisamba, Senga Hill, Mpika, Chilanga, Chadiza, Chirundu, Kazungula and Lundazi.
Others are Petauke, Chongwe, Lusangazi, Vubwi, Luano, Rufunsa, Chipata, Mkushi and Serenje.
Mr Chipata said technical expertise will also be provided to the artisanal gold miners with regard to mine planning and safety as part of the goals to organise the sector.
“ZCCM-IH will also provide access to earth-moving machinery and processing plants in these areas to help improve production. As a step towards achieving this, we have since procured an artisanal gold washing plant and a smelting kit at a cost of about K1 million,” he said.
This equipment, alongside other machinery, will be deployed to the company’s first pilot project site in Rufunsa upon finalisation of obtaining statutory approvals.
This news is music to the ears of Kasempa-based Katoka Mema Community Mine, which acquired its mining licence in 2016.
Director Norman Kalima said organising the gold mining sector remains cardinal in eliminating rural poverty.
Mr Kalima is hopeful that the move will empower local communities but emphasised the need to bridge the information gap.
“Very few miners are aware of the programme and, as such, it will be important for ZCCM-IH and Government to create awareness so that licence holders [and] the miners can get value from the gold deposits,” he said.
Mr Kalima said for a long time, lack of geological information has also remained a hindrance for small-scale miners as it is difficult to tell which areas have gold deposit and what amount.
But Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development Permanent Secretary Barnaby Mulenga has assured gold miners that communities will be sensitised to ensure the success of the strategy.
This is because for Government to collect the targeted 40,000kgs of gold, there will be need for a well-coordinated approach.
“Computation of estimates of the gold that could be bought can only be realised with an aggressive approach towards harnessing the artisanal miners. We also want people to derive value from their hard work and not the manner in which they are being exploited by unscrupulous people,” Mr Mulenga said.
Like Mr Kalima, Mr Mulenga is optimistic that the approach will uplift the living standards of the communities that are planning for gold and, most importantly, it will help in mining in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.
It is therefore hoped that the robust road map and strategy put in place will indeed bring sanity to the industry, and present a viable opportunity for the country to harness and derive economic and social value.
Unlocking the gold sub sector will also help in meeting the vision of becoming a prosperous middle-income country by 2030 through enhanced private sector participation and stimulating growth.

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