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Blanket Mine pursues lockdown exclusion

By Enacy Mapakame

Resources group – Caledonia Mining Corporation’s local unit, Blanket Gold Mine remains in partial operation as it awaits response from Government on its application for an exemption .

Blanket Mine workers process gold
Blanket Mine workers process gold

Only exempted companies are allowed to fully operate during the 21-day lockdown period that was necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although gold mining is not listed as an essential service, the Gwanda-based mining firm says it has demonstrated its ability to operate in a way that contributes to management of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 27, President Mnangagwa announced a nationwide lockdown of Zimbabwe to restrict the spread of Covid-19 infections.

In terms of these regulations all commercial activities other than “essential services” were directed to suspend operations effective March 30, 2020 for a period of 21 days. Health, media and information as well as agriculture are among the essential services that are allowed to operate, but observing the set out precautionary measures that are required to stop the spread of infections.

Blanket Mine was, however, allowed to continue operations.

“Although authorities have said gold mining is not an essential service, Blanket is currently permitted to continue with its operations, as the authorities will grant exemptions for businesses which demonstrate they can operate in a manner that contributes to the management of the spread of Covid-19 infections,” said Caledonia in a statement.

According to the group, Blanket Mine applied for an exemption on the grounds that its employee village can be quarantined from the surrounding area and that the mine will re-configure its operations to reduce the risk of infections being transmitted among its employees.

Said Caledonia: “A key measure to reduce the risk of infections among Blanket’s workforce will be to increase the ‘social-distancing’ of employees as they enter and leave the underground workings.

“This will reduce the number of employees who can work underground and will result in daily production running at approximately 70 – 80 percent of the target production rate.”

While companies are already reeling under the effects of Covid-19 especially with regards to disruption of operations, Caledonia has indicated it is entering this unprecedented situation with a strong balance sheet such that it can withstand an interruption to production of several months.

As of March 25, 2020, cash on hand was $12,5 million following strong production in the first quarter of 2020 and the higher gold price in 2020.

During the year to December 31, 2019, Blanket Mine, which is one of the country’s largest gold producers maintained a positive trajectory recording 55 182 ounces of gold, which was about 671 ounces better than prior year production. The firm is targeting to reach an annual gold output of 80 000 ounces by 2022. The Herald