The Sunday Mail

Tendai Chara

Greedy gold millers and absentee mine claim owners, holding onto the claims for speculative purposes, are among the key players that are fuelling the often bloody and chaotic illegal gold panning frenzy, Sunday Mail Online has established.

Illegal gold miners are descending on farms, disused mines and even urban centres as they search for the precious yellow metal.

Sources within the mining sector are pointing fingers at unscrupulous gold millers who are allegedly alerting illegal miners of areas where rich deposits would have been discovered, igniting often bloody rushes in the process.

Gold panning has moved to within metres of Morton Jaffray water works, putting the lives of Harare and Norton residents at risk as panners use mercury in purifying their gold

Apart from the violence associated with the illegal miners, makorokoza are also leaving deep pits and gullies in prime farming areas, resulting in conflicts with the farmers.

Players within the mining and farming sectors are calling for Government to take urgent measures to curb the scourge.

Chiedza Chipangura, who represents the Zimbabwe Miners Federation in Mashonaland West Province, spoke at length about the issues surrounding the growing trend in which illegal gold panners are now mining even in the least unexpected of places.

Women gold panners scan for the precious metal

Urban areas in Chinhoyi, Kwekwe and Shurugwi, among other areas, are being decimated by the marauding illegal miners.

According to Chipangura, gold millers are to blame for the gold rushes.

“What happens is that whenever the panners discover rich deposits and take the ore to the millers, the millers will then spread the word around, resulting in stampedes,” Chipangura, a former chairperson of the Norton Miners Association, said.

An illegal gold panner was recently robbed and then murdered at Epson Mine near Norton after a miller had tipped off other artisanal miners that the panner had collected rich pickings.

One of the shafts used by illegal gold panners near Lake Chivero

Chipangura also blamed absentee claim owners and the way in which some claim owners are conducting their activities for the chaos.

“We have people who are sitting on lucrative claims. Illegal miners somehow find their way to such claims resulting in disorganised miners. Also, the way some claim owners are doing their business leaves a lot to be desired,” added Chipangura.

Titus Moyo, a Norton gold miner blamed some claim owners for causing disorganised mining activities.

Illegal gold panners dig for the yellow metal in and around Jumbo Mine

“We have claim owners who allow illegal panners on their claims. After the panners get the ore, the claim owners will then accompany the panners to the miller and proceeds from the sale of the gold that would have been realised will then be shared equally among the three parties,” Moyo said.

Moyo said this creates problems in that the panners will often sneak into the claims without the knowledge of the owner, thus fuelling chaotic mining activities.

“The miners should be professional. All they need to do is to employ permanent workers and have them on a payroll. This will help in the screening and flushing out of such undesired elements as the violent Mashurugwi gangs,” Moyo said.

Lunch time . . . the panners take time off their gruelling work to feed the body that works

Hosia Murinda, another Norton miner, said the process of getting the necessary papers for one to start mining operations was cumbersome and is, to a larger extent, one of the factors that is fuelling illegal mining.

“We have instances in which applications for inspection of mining claims that were forwarded say, some five years ago, are still to be processed. The Ministry of Mines takes forever to send its inspectors to the claims, resulting in some miners taking shortcuts,” Murinda said.

The supposed delays are coming at a time in which calls for Government to repossess mining claims and tributaries that are being held for speculative purposes are growing louder.

For one to acquire a prospecting licence, that person needs to fork out $200.

Panners at a gold mill at Donnington Farm, just outside Norton

Prospectors are charging between US$200 and US$350 to prospect a 10-hectare block.

The prospective miner will pay a further $200 inspection fee.

After inspecting the claim, the inspector will then write a report on the findings.

According to the Zimbabwe Miners Federation, Mashonaland West province only has one surveyor who is supposed to travel the length and breadth of the vast province to inspect claims.

Chipangura urged Government to read the riot act to absentee miners.

A typical shaft near Jumbo Mine in Mazowe valley

“This should be simple. Those that are not utilising their claims should surrender them and pave way for productive miners. I was in Chinhoyi recently and illegal miners are digging along the highway. This is unacceptable,” Chipangura said.

Government has, however, intensified its efforts in curbing illegal gold mining, with the police descending on illegal miners that were operating at Lake Chivero and in Mazowe among other areas.