Inside Mining Zimbabwe (IMZ) met a youthful most likely the youngest Group Chief Geologist in Africa Mr. Patrick Takaedza (PT) who gave us an insight on his line of work.
IMZ: Good day Mr. Patrick Takaedza welcome to Inside Mining Zimbabwe. We understand that you are the Group Chief Geologist at RioZim. Can you please explain your role as the Group Chief Geologist at RioZim and your background information up to how you become the Group Chief Geologist at one of Zimbabwe’s biggest miner?
PT Thank you. I will start with my background as a career geologist. Firstly l am highly indebted to Mark Tsomondo, probably my first proper mentor as a professional geologist. Other notable individuals that have helped shape me as a career geologist are Felischismi Mwijage and Julian Ford.
I have had the opportunity to be exposed to several mineral commodities throughout my working experience in projects across Southern, Central, Eastern and Western Africa, Australia and Asia in exploration, mineral resource and mining roles. This effectively makes me an all-rounder in the essential roles of geologists.
I am a member of both the AusIMM and SAIMM and through all this, I have achieved competency, by JORC 2012 definition, in various mineral commodities some that are not the usual or common mineral commodities we deal with every day. This has allowed me to do work and reports for various companies listed on the ASX for example.
My role with ZSE listed RioZim LTD, in summary, is to increase ounces, grams, kilos, tonnes, you name it, within the corporate portfolio. Simply put, I assist in ensuring that the company’s Mineral Resources keep growing. This, in turn, increases the Life of Mine (LOM) of projects within the Group.
I guess the next question would be how do I achieve this. Firstly it is organic growth through robust exploration. One of my strategic objectives is to generate resources at twice the rate at which mining production depletes them, at minimal costs. So far the RioZim Group has invested in 8 Diamond Coring Rigs.
Secondly, I help grow the company’s Mineral Resources through mergers and acquisitions by scouting for, assessing and evaluating potential external projects RioZim LTD is a diversified mineral commodities group and so l guess my competency and multi-mineral commodity experience and exposure have found me the role as the Group Chief Geo.
IMZ: How is it working for a leading a critical area of a huge organization like Rio Zim
PT: Its very hectic but exciting to be managing more than 13 projects within the group. My colleagues offer full support within their capacity and as a result, am not really overwhelmed.
IMZ: What do you emphasize when evaluating geological data.
PT: Data quality and Standards as guided by the JORC 2012 or NI43 – 101 are a pre-requisite. To achieve this only a professional with sufficient experience should undertake the work.
IMZ: If you were to lead the Zimbabwe geological survey what would you introduce or get rid of?
PT: Firstly l would expedite the Cadastre finalisation for obvious reasons. Some countries like Uganda have completed this timeously because they outsourced some German company to do it for them.
Secondly, we need field-based extension geologists to probably assist the artisanal and small scale miners at government-subsidized cost. This will ensure compliance with the act and sustainable exploration and exploitation of mineral resources.
Lastly, not really sure if that should be applicable through the ZGS or the parent Ministry rather but I have serious reservations on CRAPs. (or peggers), their role and their necessity in the mineral or mining industry. I would scrap them altogether or set minimum professionally relevant qualifications for which one can be considered for a CRAP.
IMZ: Geologists are of the opinion that Zimbabwe is hamstrung by a lack of mineral exploration. What is the way forward for the country to be able to fully explore its mineral wealth other than issuing EPOs?
PT: Unfortunately, l do not see any other way unless we are going to find ways to incentivize, promote and support brownfields exploration on and around already existing and producing mines. Probably the government should consider incentives for these brownfields projects as any exploration is very risky and capital intensive and not ideal to be funded from production revenue. In other countries listed companies actually raise exploration funding on the Stock Exchange and so don’t have to use their own revenue.
IMZ: It is without a doubt that you are a very experienced and tested geologist, there is an issue of Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPOs) in Zimbabwe, there are people who are pushing for the ban of these EPOs. From a geologist’s point of view, do you think it is wise to ban EPOs and why?
PT: I will give my own brief perspective on this sensitive matter. Firstly there are specific organizations claiming to represent some groups of people who have been lobbying for this blanket ban on EPOs, take note of “BLANKET” ban. I happen to attend some of the MAB meetings where these groups are asked to give reasons to object to the issuing of EPOs. It has therefore occurred to me that most of these organization are now more like activists who just oppose for the sake of opposing without giving any concrete reasons.
The merits of granting or not granting an EPO should be dealt with EPO by EPO. All stakeholders should be involved, eg farmers, lands, forestry, fisheries, tourism, heritage, district councils, and even village representatives not only small scale miners should be part of this process. Having said that, I believe small scale miners and large scale miners should be complementary in their contribution towards the mineral production of a nation rather than being pitted against each other as competitors. It has also been apparent that some of these organisations are being led by individuals who lobby for this ban for personal or individual reasons. We have gold mining barons in as much as we have land barons. To explain this, for example, l have been asked by leaders of one such organization to commit in writing that l will reserve the right their members to peg within RioZim pending EPOs, a provision set in section 103 of the Mines and Minerals Act. They argue that EPOs monopolize and sterilize ground available to third parties wanting to peg as well. My response has always been it doesn’t make sense that we reserve that right to any particular organization and that we will rather consider everyone and anyone depending on circumstances.
Why then do small scale miners oppose EPOs as if they are reserved only for large scale organizations unless there are some other reasons except “gold claim grab”. Why are EPOs being opposed as if they are a legal provision only available for gold exploration? Some organizations are lobbying for the ban to preserve business for CRAP holders.
Are EPOs are necessary? In my opinion… yes. Therefore, anyone interested in the sustainable growth of mineral resources and production at a national level will never oppose EPOs. EPOs attract exploration investment and anyone can apply for an EPO, even the small scale miner if they have a plan and the resources to undertake and fulfill the work required. However, exploration is very risky and capital intensive and under the circumstances, not anyone can execute it. Exploration undoubtedly has led to the discovery of all significant mineral deposits across the world in general and Zimbabwe in particular. Not all of these deposits have surface expressions that would be easily discoverable. As we slowly deplete the near-surface resources that we are exploiting currently we need to do advanced exploration to discover more resources to replace what we are depleting.
EPOs then provide the mainframe to which mineral deposit discoveries and resources can be generated through exploration. Some of these deposits constitute the biggest gold, platinum, and coal mines in Zimbabwe. One would then question whether that is detrimental to the countries growth and how. The answer is crystal clear.
IMZ: We have seen small scale and artisanal miners accounting for over 60 percent gold deliveries to the country’s sole gold buyer and exporter Fidelity Printers and Refinery (FPR). Can we, therefore, trust small scale and artisanal mining to sustain the economy of Zimbabwe?
PT: Well, if the 60% is true, then its short term and I do not see this trend lasting for a couple of years. It is actually a misnorm that the Zimbabwe Govt should have addressed the moment it manifested. The government should have investigated the reasons why this happened. The answer is simple though. The bigger scale miners have been constrained and throttled by wrong policies for years. There have been double standards when dealing with small and bigger scale miners clearly favoring the former. This has included different forex payments and payment times, the “look aside” attitude of government when it comes to miners compliance obligations all which come with costs that the bigger mines have to bear while not being enforced to the smaller miners. Having said that, small scale miners will never sustain a growing economy for reasons l stated before. They can only mine high grades that are closer to the surface and they cant mine the wider open pittable resources that are usually low grade. Most of these near-surface high-grade resources will soon get depleted but production will still need to go on. It brings me back to the EPO issue and why they need to be allowed.
IMZ: You mention Policies name one?
PT: Allocation of Forex payments. Small scales used to get far more and in cash while larger mines got about 30% that never used to be paid. This incapacitated the big miners while the small guys prospered.
IMZ: What would you say the small scale and artisanal gold miners are doing wrong in their operations and how can they correct this?
PT: Generally small scale mining in Zimbabwe is not sustainable. Mining is very technical requiring proper planning and scheduling for sustainability. This is also a huge gap in Safety, Health and Environmental footprints associated with mining and mineral processing speaking of artisanals, recall the Battlefields/ Cricket disaster. My advice is that they follow the law to the book rather than seek waivers and engage consultancy services where they require professional help.
IMZ: We speak to lots of ASMs funding is a major challenge for them in initial stages to seek professional services and most venture into ASM as a way to eke a living due to high unemployment. Is there anything professionals like yourself can do to help because ASM seems to be here to stay Zim just has to make it work?
PT: It all starts with the mind set. First it needs to be appreciated that exploration is a must in mining. Secondly is the issue of sustainable mining that obviously includes SHE that needs acknowledgment. Having said that i recall the lands/agric ministry used to have AREX or AGRITEX officers who would technically assist the farmer no matter how small scale. Its a consideration worth the while with the Ministry of Mines who employ many geologists and mining professionals.
Yet again Fidelity has been at the forefront of promoting mining through loans. Why don’t they extend the helping hand to prior processing fo ensure sustainable growth of the product they require. They need to sponsor exploration/ prospecting as well as pre-requisite obligations and requirements that need compliance like EIAs and EMPs.
Other organizations like the UZ, School of Mines, Banks, and Institute of Mining Research can also extend their services to assist the small scale as part of their projects.
IMZ: ASM use gold Peggers who only know a few methods like using copper wires, gold detectors, etc what’s your advice when they are prospecting for gold?
PT: Well l don’t know if this copper wire divining really works and where it has actually worked. The secret in successful mining is knowing how much Mineral Resource you have and where exactly it spatially sits in the ground. The biggest gold miners like Barrick, Newmont, Kinross, Randgold, Gold Fields, etc would not have been spending millions to billions doing exploration and drilling if it was that easy and straight forward. Copper wires surely cant give you a grade, a tonnage or a reef thickness. Only one machine is capable of doing that, and that would be the drill rig, the reason why it is nicknamed “The Truth Machine”. My free advice is that anyone prospecting for gold does it the scientific way, using properly trained professionals like geologists. Initially, it may sound expensive for the small scale miner but ultimately it will save them lots of money, time and headaches.
IMZ: What needs to be done for small scale mines to develop into medium mines in Zimbabwe?
PT: It is all about the discovery of mineral resources in sufficient quantities. The size of the resource determines the size and extent of a Mine. Discovery means exploration and so the small scales need to acknowledge and accept that exploration is the most important aspect in mining and mineral resources should they require sustainable growth. As such, they need to invest in exploration no matter how rudimentary.
IMZ: Which mineral would you say is the most underrated or underutilized in Zimbabwe and how can its true value be appreciated?
PT: I cannot think of any but generally interest in mineral commodity follows the global trends and markets to which it is destined. So you will find out that a lucrative mineral commodity today might not be so lucrative in a couple of years. So true value is only realised if it is only profitable to exploit such a mineral. Mining is a business and any business should be profitable to make sense.
IMZ: There has been noise on the delay by big mines like Great Dyke Investment and Vast Resources to start their operation. From a geologist’s point of view, what do you think could be the reason for these delays?
PT: Delays are always associated with funding or rather lack of it. The processing from exploration, feasibility, mine establishment, and mining can take many years while requiring funds at each stage.
Unfortunately, as Zimbabwe, where we stand right now, such pre-requisite funding is not easy to come by for obvious reasons l will not dwell on.
IMZ: Jobs are not easy to come by for geologists who just graduated, what your advice on a recently graduated John.
PT: Unfortunately for John, it’s never an easy walk. John naturally doesn’t have the experience and exposure to even do small consultancy jobs so he will have to just keep applying and hopefully wait. While he waits l recommend he does some extra professionally related courses, voluntary jobs, internship etc. It is also worth joining professional organizations even at student level. Networking in the industry usually helps too.
IMZ: Besides your busy work schedule what do you do in your spare time do you socialise or have family time?
PT: Rather put it as besides family and work what else do you do (laughs). Family comes first, my job and career second, then when l get extra time I am a keen reader and researcher. I watch cartoons with the kids when at home but generally am an outdoors person and when I am not busy l take time for social networking and drinks with my fellow industry seniors like Luckstone Saungweme and Kennedy Mtethwa among others. Am usually very busy with very little time to spare.
IMZ: Thank you so much for your time insightful information. We hope to have more interactions like this in the future.
PT: Thank you for having me.
Patrick Takaedza can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article first appeared in the February 2020 issue of the Mining Zimbabwe magazine