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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.

See Gold Export Earnings in Zimbabwe.
See Gold Smuggling in Zimbabwe.
See Gold Mafia.
See Mutapa Investment Fund.


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:


Illegal Mining

In 2006, see Chikorokoza Chapera. (‘No More Illegal Mining’ operation)

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.)

LBMA 2008

In 2008, Zimbabwe was barred from the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), the world’s largest gold and silver wholesale market, when its gold output slumped to 3 072kg, far below the 10 tonnes per annum required to guarantee membership. However, the requirement was fulfilled in 2015 when production hit 21 tonnes. Since then, the country’s gold output has been growing, with production hitting 19.05 tonnes in 2020 before increasing to 29.6 tonnes in 2021.

However in 2022, Zimbabwe was still trying for re-admission. Nobuhle T Chikuni of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association in her report titled, The need for responsible mining practices in Zimbabwe said joining the LBMA is an advantage to Zimbabwe as the prices are better. Following the improvement in gold production, Zimbabwe has been trying to be readmitted to the LBMA with no success. Chikuni said gross human rights violations, land degradation and poor law enforcement in the mining sector, could be some of the reasons Zimbabwe’s admission has been delayed. She said:

Until Zimbabwean authorities remedy this, then it is unlikely that they will meet the criteria set by the LBMA for readmission according to the Bullion post. In addressing this, Zimbabwe should adopt the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines on responsible sourcing among other global transparency initiatives in the extractives sector.

Chikuni said the LBMA had adopted responsible sourcing. They established the responsible gold guidance refiners to combat systematic or widespread abuses of human rights, to avoid contributing to conflict, comply with high standards of anti-money-laundering and combating terrorist financing. Chikuni added that the time to start dealing with corruption and lack of accountability in the mining sector was now considering that Zimbabwe aims to achieve a US$12 billion mining sector industry by 2030. [4]

Gold Trade Act

Gold (like diamonds and emeralds) is a controlled substance in Zimbabwe (as it is many world countries). Unless made into jewelry, it is regulated by the Gold Trade Act.

Download it here - File:GoldTradeAct.pdf

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"
  4. Zimbabwe Facing Hurdles Before Returning To The London Gold Market, Pindula, Published: 14 March 2022, Retrieved: 8 March 2023

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