GOVERNMENT has commended the headway that Blanket Mine has made towards increasing production to 7 100 ounces of gold per month in line with the firm’s annual production target of 80 000 ounces from next year and beyond.
This follows the successful completion of the US$67 million central shaft project, which is already operational by Caledonia Mining Corporation, which owns the Gwanda-based gold mine in March this year.
The central shaft is expected to be commissioned by President Mnangagwa soon. In an interview after his recent tour of the mine, Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura said the operation is one of the mines that Government selected to anchor the attainment of a US$12 billion mining economy by 2023.
Under the US$12 billion milestone, the gold sub-sector is expected to contribute US$4 billion.
“The main purpose of the central shaft is to make sure that the bottlenecks that Blanket faced such as the double handling of ore and waste are eliminated,” he said.
“This will increase monthly production of gold. Last month, they produced about 189 kilogrammes and this September they are expecting about 210kg, which translates to about 7 100 ounces, which is in sync with their annual target after the commissioning of the central shaft.”
Deputy Minister Kambamura was accompanied by Matabeleland South provincial mining director, Mr Khumbulani Mlangeni. This year, Blanket targets output of between 61 000 and 67 000 ounces of gold.
In the first six months of the year, Blanket produced 29 907 ounces of gold, which were eight percent higher than the 27 732 ounces produced in the first half of last year.
Deputy Minister Kambamura said given the existing production trend, the mine is set to increase its annual production to 2,4 tonnes.
“This feeds well into our US$12 billion milestone whereby the gold sector will be producing 100 tonnes equivalent to about US$4 billion,” he said.
Under the two-year Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), which was implemented between October 2018 and December 2020, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development was tasked to oversee four key milestones to ensure the country achieves the 100 tonnes target.
The four key milestones are the of opening new mines, re-opening of closed mines, increasing production of existing mines and beneficiation of minerals.
On the expansion of production by existing mines, the Government selected some mining operations it saw critical in propelling the attainment of its vision, and Blanket Mine was one of them.
“We are so impressed, the company managed to complete the project ahead of the scheduled time.
“We are still to get a date from the Office of the President and Cabinet as to when he (President Mnangagwa) will be coming for the commissioning of the central shaft but he will be coming soon,” said Deputy Minister Kambamura.
During their first visit of the mine in May this year, Deputy Minister Kambamura accompanied Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando but they did not have chance to tour underground operations due to flooding at the time.
“On the first visit, we toured the surface operation, the processing plant and we were just briefed of the plans that the company was executing with regards the project,” said the Deputy Minister Kambamura.
Blanket Mine is installing massive pumps underground so that production will not be disrupted due to flooding during the rainy season. Meanwhile, the company is aggressively pursuing its “multi-asset strategy” as indicated by its recent US$4 million acquisition of the Maligreen project in Gweru from Pan African Mining.
The gold producer’s acquisition of the Gweru-based project is in line with its goal to expand its yellow metal project portfolio in the country. Maligreen is a substantial brownfield exploration opportunity with significant historical exploration and evaluation work having been conducted on the property over the last 30 years.