VICTORIA FALLS – Zimbabwe’s large-scale gold mines have the capacity to generate $4 billion worth of revenue to the economy in the next five years, a senior industry executive said on Thursday.

Thomas Gono, chairman of the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe’s Gold Producers Association, however noted that at least $1 billion in fresh capital would be required by the sector to achieve this target.

“It is not an elusion that we can achieve 100 tonnes of gold output by 2023,” said Gono, who spoke during a gold mining symposium attended by more than 300 delegates at the opening of the 2019 mining industry annual conference.

“We can actually contribute $4 billion by 2023 and make significant contribution to foreign direct investment. But the gold sector requires in excess of $1 billion in the next five years to sustain the growth and development of the sector to achieve the 2023 target,” Gono noted.

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He said a number of factors were militating against growth, including power cuts of up to seven days a week, and the foreign currency shortages that have lately seen a number of mines contemplating “suspending operations”.

He said gold revenues had increased to $1,35 billion in 2018, from $110 million in 2008, due to improved policies, but government had to make sure the operating environment remained perfect in order to encourage investment into the sector, noted Gono.

“We have a support in our society of 1,5 million people under the small-scale mining sector alone. So, government cannot afford to ignore our requirements. Gold mines employ 12 000 jobs directly, which is 25 percent of the total jobs in the mining industry. And there are 33 000 jobs indirectly,” he said.

He described the period 2005 to 2012 as the lost decade for Zimbabwe’s gold sector.

“We have not done well enough,” he said.

“Our production declined to 3,5 tonnes in 2008 but at the time gold prices rose to $1 800 per ounce. We regard this as the lost decade. But from 1999, if we had increased production annually by five percent, we would have reached 50 tonnes of gold in 2018, instead of the 35 tonnes that we produced,” said Gono.