By Caxton Mangezi
Central shaft is a significant step up in our operation. The objective of the central was to provide access to the deeper orebodies. It also allows us to increase production and extend the life of mine.
The project was started in 2015 and was completed in 2021. During this time we invested US$ 150 million, of which the central shaft cost about US$ 67 milli0n. The result is one of Zimbabwe’s deepest gold mine shafts going down to 1,200 metres below the surface.
We have come a long way, thanks to the central shaft, annual production has increased from less than 240 kg to the current 2.4 tonnes per annum – a ten - fold increase. We are excited and remain optimistic that Blanket could increase production further depending on the success of our deep level exploration.
This growth benefits all our stakeholders in Blanket Mine through increased employment , higher profitability, and enhanced contributions to the fiscus.
We are proud that the central shaft project was delivered by a 100% Zimbabwean workforce. Shaft sinking is a dangerous business. We are proud that the project was completed with a clean and excellent safety record.
This performance gives us great confidence as Caledonia continues to invest in the country and prepares to develop other projects in Zimbabwe.
In November, Caledonia acquired the Maligreen claims in Gweru, which already has a resource of one million ounces of gold.
In July of 2022, Caledonia signed an agreement to purchase the Bilboes gold project north of Bulawayo – a deal that has since been concluded. Bilboes has resources of approximately 2.5 million ounces of gold and a feasibility study indicates a potential for an open pit gold mine producing an average of over 5 tonnes of gold per annum over a 10 year life of mine.
Most recently, Caledonia purchased the Motapa, an early stage project next to Bilboes. Motapa does not yet have a formal resource, but we believe it is highly prospective and it is strategically important to our growth ambitions in Zimbabwe in terms of location and scale.
Blanket plus Bilboes plus Maligreen plus Motapa gives Caledonia the potential to grow into a multi-asset , Zimbabwe focused gold miner producing nearly 17 tonnes of gold per annum. For context, Zimbabwe currently produces approximately 30 tonnes of gold per annum.
All this shows Caledonia’s commitment to Zimbabwe and the communities around us. Over 2000 employees currently work for Blanket, and we have a very strong connection with our community. When Caledonia bought Blanket in 2006, Blanket employed approximately 500 people.
Our employees and the Gwanda community own a combined 20% of Blanket mine and therefore share the benefit of this success story.
In addition, Caledonia and Blanket Mine have an established CSR strategy that contributes significantly towards projects in the Gwanda community. These efforts are focussed on the pillars of heath, education, agriculture environment, women & youth empowerment & charity.
As an environmentally conscious business and to reduce our reliance on the national power grid, Caledonia has also built a 12 megawatt solar plant at a cost of US$ 14 million.
The solar plant is now contributing approximately 27% on Blanket’s current total daily power demand, improving the security of power supply on the mine.
The listing of Caledonia Mining on the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange in 2021 not only strengthens our commitment to Zimbabwe but has also provided a platform for more local participation in the business.
All this would have not been achievable without Government support and the president’s commitment to his mantra “ Zimbabwe is open for business” AND “ nyika inovakwa nevene vayo”.
*Caxton Mangezi is the Vice President Operations at Blanket Mine*