Zimbabwe gold output declines 15% amid electricity, forex shortages

By Nyasha Chingono

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe produced 30 metric tons of gold in 2023, 15% less than the previous year, official data showed on Monday, as electricity cuts and currency volatility impacted output.

The southern African country was once among the top gold producers on the continent but has fallen far behind regional peers Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Tanzania as an extended economic crisis kept investors away.

Zimbabwe remains largely under-explored and its operating mines struggle to raise capital due to concerns over government policy and property rights, especially after the seizure of white-owned farms at the turn of the century.

Output plunged to a mere 3 tons in 2008, at the height of Zimbabwe’s political and hyperinflation crisis. Although production has recovered in recent years, reaching an all-time high of 35 tons in 2022, the country still lags behind its regional peers, despite its significant potential.

The country’s 2023 gold haul of 30.11 tons fell short of the government’s target of 40 tons for the year, showed data from Fidelity Refineries, the state-owned agency which solely processes all the gold produced in the country.

Zimbabwean gold producers, along with all other exporters from the country, receive 75% of their earnings in U.S. dollars and the balance in a local currency that lost more than 80% of its value last year alone.

The country also experienced intensified power cuts due to the frequent breakdown of its ageing coal-fired plants, while generation at the Kariba hydropower station continues to be throttled by low water levels.

Most of Zimbabwe’s gold is produced by small-scale operators and artisanal miners, a highly fragmented structure that lacks the advantages and efficiencies of scale.

Some of the country’s top gold producers include the state-owned Kuvimba Mining House, Caledonia Mining Corporation, Padenga and RioZim.

(Reporting by Nyasha Chingono; Editing by Nelson Banya and Louise Heavens)