Nkosilathi Sibanda, Business Correspondent
CALEDONIA Mining Corporation remains optimistic that its gold-producing concern, Blanket Mine in Matabeleland South will surpass its annual 60 000 ounces target for the year, setting a record high production rate in years.
Buoyed by its new central shaft at the mine, Caledonia has a production outlook that could bring out 80 000 ounces of the yellow metal by end of 2022. In the first three months of the year, company results point out that Blanket Mine produced 13 197 ounces. Although the figure was shy of the initial target, it was proof that more gold could have been mined had it not been for the abundant rains that caused production shifts in the quarter.
“A total of 13 197 ounces of gold were produced during the quarter. Caledonia remains on track to hit its production guidance of between 61 000 to 67 000 ounces for the full year,” the company announced in its first-quarter results that ended on 31 March.
Although the first-quarter production was lower than that of last year, the firm’s group chief executive officer Mr Steve Curtis said prospects of achieving set goals were high.
“Production in the first-quarter of 2021 was slightly below our target and below the comparable quarter in 2020 albeit at a level which allows us to maintain our 2021 production guidance of 61 000 to 67 000 ounces for the full year. Gold production has often been lower in the first-quarter of each year and increases in the following quarters.
The rainy season this year saw unprecedented rainfall causing flooding at the mine and resulted in several lost shifts during the period.”
The new central shaft started to be fully operational in the first week of April.
“These temporary issues have now been rectified and with the central shaft now operational we remain on track to hit our 80 000-ounce target in 2022,” Mr Curtis noted in the quarterly update.
Mr Curtis said previously Blanket Mine had a myriad of constraints emanating from weak shaft mechanisms that stalled production. The central shaft was seen as the best way for the mine to boost production as the shaft has the capacity to lift both rock, material and manpower.
Mr Curtis said funds for the shaft, which was done in six years, were sourced from Blanket Mine’s local earnings as the concern made a commitment to bankroll the project.
“This has been an owner-funded and built project by the Blanket team and I would like to thank everyone for their hard work and especially for achieving the completion of the shaft without any serious accidents, recording only two lost-time injuries.”
Caledonia Mining Corporation’s commitment to invest more in the mining portfolio was emphasised by the chief financial officer and director, Mr Mark Learmonth in South Africa recently. He told a grouping of investors that the country has a stable and peaceful business operating environment. Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has said gold deliveries for the first-quarter of the year went under by 30 percent. The months of January and February recorded low volumes with large-scale miners and the small-scale sector lamenting flooding caused by the rains. It was only in March, when the rain subsided that gold deliveries to Fidelity Printers and Refiners picked up to 54,7 percent.