US miner expands ops in Zim

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    New York Stock Exchange listed Caledonia Mining Corporation has submitted its bid to takeover some of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) gold mines as the miner seeks to expand operations in Zimbabwe.

    ZMDC owns troubled Jena and Elvington goldmines, as well as Sabi mine, which is currently under judicial management and a joint venture with Chandiwana mines.

    The recent move by Caledonia, which owns 49 percent of Blanket mine, comes after ZMDC had invited tenders from private partners as it seeks to reopen at least six mines that had been lying idle for several years due to a number of factors, chief among them lack of funds.

    Caledonia Mining Corporation chief financial officer, Mr Mark Learmonth, in an interview recently, said the gold miner made its bid following the invitation of tenders by the state mining vehicle.

    “We are looking at expanding and we are not looking at something that’s big and with potential for growth. We are looking at projects that are dormant, relatively small or new. We are looking for projects with growth opportunities.

    “ZMDC recently invited tenders for their mines and we also threw our hat into the ring and we are now waiting for their response. Every project we look at will be evaluated on its merits and demerits,” said Mr Learmonth.

    Chief executive Mr Steve Curtis added that Caledonia mining is seriously looking at expansion and will be looking at assets that will increase the company’s growth.

    He said the company will only focus on gold mining, its specialty, and will not tap into other minerals.

    Following the resource upgrade at its Blanket Mine, the mining group has extended the scope of the central shaft project by increasing the depth of the shaft by a further 250 metres to a shaft bottom depth of 1,330 metres.

    The extension will allow for a further two production levels (in addition to the two new levels that were already planned) and will potentially extend Blanket’s life of mine by four years to 2031.

    The extension of the shaft is not expected to delay the achievement of the target production of approximately 80 000 ounces per year by 2021, but it will improve operational flexibility.

    Caledonia’s move to expand is in line with President Mnangagwa’s push to have the country’s economy working again.

    In his inaugural speech, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe will pursue an economic revival agenda underpinned by the mining and agriculture sectors and the latest moves by the state firm are the first steps to maximise on the country’s mineral rich deposits.

    ZMDC recently called for “Expression of Interest” for at least six mines rich in gold, chrome, coalbed methane, emerald, tantalite, lithium and graphite.

    Jena Mine had been battling antiquated equipment and unreliable power supply due to non-payment of arrears.

    Statistics from the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe show that the mine produced 309 kg of gold in 2013.

    With a capacity to treat 450 tonnes of ore per day, Jena used to employ more than 632 employees at its peak.

    The mine had some of its property attached following its failure to pay creditors and the recent recapitalisation will go a long way in boosting production.

    On all the gold mines under its portfolio, ZMDC is looking at introducing short, medium and long term phases with the aim to improve efficiencies and ramping up production at the mines.

    Sabi Mine resumed full throttle production following a joint venture agreement between Chandiwana Mines and ZMDC.

    Chandiwana Mines is a consortium of 5 000 Zimbabwean mining experts based in the diaspora and locally, which agreed to inject close to $26,1 million into the revival of Sabi Mine, a key contributor to economic development.

    The third mine, Elvington, suspended operations in 2003 due to the collapse of one of its main shafts and is currently on care and maintenance.

    The mine is currently involved in dump retreatment while preparing for resuscitation of underground operations.

    Elvington used to produce 45kgs of gold per month before the shaft incident.

    ZMDC believes the Chegutu gold-producing unit, Elvington Mine, has potential to be profitable once funds are secured.

    The mine has 21 blocs of mining claims stretching 437 hectares with potential monthly revenue of $2,4 million if fully exploited.

    ZMDC was established by an Act of Parliament Number 31 of 1982 and its main aim is to create a vibrant and versatile mining power house necessary to transform Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth to the world class standards.

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