Gold has been produced in Zimbabwe for several hundred years. First appears to have been mined in the northern areas from the 7th Century. Trade with Muslim settlements on the East Coast may have started in the 10th century and was flourishing in the 12th century. [1] Before 1890, the area produced an estimated 150 tonnes. More than 6000 workings have existed since then, almost all of which were worked before then. Gold production from 1892 to 1982 was over 1450 tonnes.


Gold orebodies in Zimbabwe are found in greenstone belts or granite batholiths. Usually:

  • Quartz veins. (Reefs). eg. Golden Valley Mine near Kadoma'
  • Sulphide-impregnated schists. eg. Cam and Motor Mine - where the schists went to 1700m deep.
  • Some specific Banded Iron formations. Most recent production.

Gold is also notably panned along the Mazowe and Angwa rivers.
In 1987, at least 4 parts per billion (4 g per tonne) was needed to be profitably mined.

The ore, once taken from the ground;
1/ is broken up and crushed to fine powder,
2/ concentrated (a step often involving mercury, cyanide or arsenic),
3/ smelting.


Shona production was limited to surface deposits, up to 30m deep, on the central plateau. And the trade remained in Shona hands (eg the Munhumutapa Empire) despite Muslim and then Portuguese attempts to penetrate and control the area. The findings of Henry Hartley and Karl Maunch in the 1860s resulted in a European Gold Rush, with petitioners going to Lobengula's court. And ultimately led to the BSAC concession with the resulting settlement of Rhodesia. 1890 to 1930, gold mining was the single most important industry. It peaked in 1940 with the production of 23 533kg. [1]

In 1975, The USA allowed free ownership of gold, and the price of gold (then held at US$35 per ounce) floated. 1 troy ounce = 31.3 grams. In 1980, the price reached US$850 / ounce (the highest), and on 1 December 1986 it was US$389.
This price change effects the grade of ore that can be worked.
Mines producing less than 50kg per year are considered "small scale".
In 1987, national gold reserves were estimated at 100 tonnes.

The main gold mines in production in Rhodesia were:


From p31 Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe

It is estimated that 1 in 30 Zimbabweans (14% of the labour force) actively engages in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). (PACT. 2015. A Golden Opportunity. pp. 75) These miners produce more gold than the large-scale mining companies – in 2019 they produced 63% of the gold marketed formally in Zimbabwe, contributing 1.2% of Zimbabwe’s GDP. (Hayes, K. n.d. The importance of supporting ASM - a perspective from PACT.)

Further Reading

Encyclopedia Zimbabwe. [2]

Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe/Rhodeia. [1]

Encyclopaedia Rhodesia. [3]

Gold Export Earnings in Zimbabwe

Mining in Zimbabwe

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 [R. Kent Rasmussen (ed), Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia] (The Scarecrow Press, London, 1979) Retrieved 8 August 2019"
  2. 2.0 2.1 [Katherine Sayce (Ed), Tabex, Encyclopedia Zimbabwe], Tabex, Encyclopedia Zimbabwe, (Quest Publishing, Harare, 1987), Retrieved: 25 July 2019
  3. 3.0 3.1 [Mary Akers (ed.), Encyclopaedia Rhodesia] (The College Press, Salisbury, 1973) Retrieved 8 August 2019"