Earlier this year Mining Zimbabwe visited one of Zimbabwe’s oldest operating mines, How Mine, for a technical visit with the Association of Mine Managers of Zimbabwe (AMMZ).
The visit saw Mine Managers touring the underground mine sharing technical information and taking notes on how the recently awarded “most improved gold mine” conducted its business. After an underground tour, I had a sit down with the man running the show Engineer Elton Gwatidzo. It was easy to see why he was voted President of the AMMZ as the man knew his business. Here is how the interview went.
KS Tell us a bit about yourself.
EG Elton Gwatidzo is a Mining Engineer who studied at the UZ. He has worked for BIMCO at ZISCO, PanAff-Ayrshire Mine and is the current How Mine’s Mine Manager. He is married with 3 boys. He is a holder of various mining and management qualifications.
KS How old is Elton Gwatidzo?
EG Elton is 41 years old.
KS What made you choose Mining as a profession?
EG My father is Ex-Wenera so I had an interest in mining from a very young age.
KS What’s your typical working day like?
EG Early morning daily reports, meetings, news press catch-up and various KPIs tracking.
KS You are running one of the oldest mines in the country, tell us about the history of How Mine?
EG Pegged in 1941 by J. Howe (hence How Mine). The mine Started with open pits and stamp mills for processing. It changed various ownership hands including 1971 when Lohnro took over then Metallon took over in 2002 until today.
KS How many metres below ground level is your deepest shaft and how do you get air circulation down there?
EG The deepest shaft is currently at 33L, 1200m and still sinking further down. Ventilation is supplied through the North shaft and Main Shaft which are intake while exhausting using districts in the old workings. A negative pressure system is employed.
KS We have seen the new (Level) you are currently working on (opening). Tell us about it.
EG The new mining level being opened is 32L. Shaft sinking is progressing to 36L so as to establish a loading level at 35L which will enable access to ore from 32L. Each mining back is 76m ie from 30L to 32L.
KS Seeing there is lots of Mining in Southern Africa are there any plans for the AMMZ to work with SADC Mine Managers for example and conduct technical visits for information sharing?
EG Post Covid-19, that should be the plan.
KS You have a strong Mining background and as a person who grew up in Mining, is there anything you are doing to help Artisanal and Small-scale Miners around you to conduct proper mining?
EG How Mine has trained Women-In-Mining to obtain Blasting Licenses and basic mining training
KS What policy improvements would you like to see?
EG The main issue is policy inconsistency
KS To ensure the sustainability of the mine, what exploration and capital development projects are you running?
EG The mine is undertaking an aggressive exploration plan for both surface and underground resources at a cost of $8.2m. The mine is also expanding operations at a cost of $3m and deepening the 16N7 shaft to extend life at a cost of $3.6m.
KS In the last five years to current, do you have any upgrades or increases in your mineral reserves?
EG Last five years of exploration have only been to maintain the known resources.
KS What is your production target this year and what measures are in place to achieve these targets?
EG The mine is planning to produce 30koz of gold and over $5.7m was spent in 2021 to ensure sustained production in terms of capital expenditure.
KS We have seen a mini-town suburb at How Mine, currently how many workers reside in the workers’ residential area?
EG Currently 1016 workers reside at the mine
KS Zimbabwe set a 12-billion-dollar mining economy by 2023! Is this achievable?
EG Very possible although the timing is taking a toll. Covid-19 and International instabilities are always affecting the plans.
KS Congratulations on winning the most improved gold producer of the year. What did you do right to achieve improved production?
EG Investing in the business. Investing in new and modern equipment, underground exploration, and underground development. The results were mostly a function of the shaft deepening project commissioned in 2020 at a cost of $5.3m.
KS What challenges would you say you are facing as Zimbabwean miners?
EG Access to capital, quality of supplies and fair value of revenue.
KS Any words to those who are interested in venturing into Mining in Zimbabwe?
EG Zimbabwe is still highly untapped. The vast mineral abundance is still being accessed in shallow operations. There is still huge potential We have witnessed new ventures in Coal, Lithium, Gold, Diamond, Iron Ore and Platinum. More are still opening.
KS Besides Mines and Mining, what’s Elton into?
EG Elton is into Golf, farming and some family ventures.