Stack of golden bars in the bank vault

Gold Export Earnings in Zimbabwe has become very important to the country for economic growth after the demise of industry due to adverse economic situation as a result of poor economic policies.


Mining was Zimbabwe's leading industry in 2002, contributing 27% of export trade. The chief minerals were coal, gold, copper, nickel, tin, and clay, and Zimbabwe was a world leader in the production of lithium minerals, chrysotile asbestos, and ferrochromium, with more than half of the world's known chrome reserves. Zimbabwe was self-sufficient in most minerals, producing 35 commodities from 1,000 mines, mostly small, and exporting 90% of its mineral output.

The total value of mineral production exceeded $500 million per year, and the mining sector employed 60,000 people in formal operations; another 100,000–300,000 were thought to be informally employed intermittently in panning for gold. Of total exports of $1.92 billion in 1999, mineral and manufactured metal exports accounted for $550.8 million, down from $736.6 million in 1995.[1]

The most important mineral was gold, valued at $194 million in 2000, down from $244 million in 1999. Gold was the second-leading export commodity ($230 million), followed by ferroalloys ($166.5 million), nickel ($48.1 million), asbestos ($35.8 million), iron and steel ($12.5 million), black granite as dimension stone, copper, diamond, coal, chromite, tin, and silver. Exports of polished granite were expected to reach $100 million in 2000. Steel production was the second-leading industry in 2002, and the manufacture of cement, chemicals, and fertilizers ranked fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively.

See Mining in Zimbabwe.

Mining Industry Outlook

Zimbabwe aims to increase the annual revenue of its mining industry from $4bn to more than $12bn over the next four years. The ambitious goal, laid out in the country’s Strategic Road to the Achievement, represents a 344% jump from $2.7bn achieved in 2017, and seeks to improve exploration activity, employment levels and foreign investment in the sector.

It aims to increase gold exports to $4bn and platinum to $3bn, chrome, iron, steel diamonds and coal are to bring in a combined $1bn, lithium $500m and other minerals $1.5bn, in what President Emmerson Mnangagwa called a hurdle-riddled journey.[2]


Gold smuggling is mentioned on p31 Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe under the Case Study 5 The Mining Cartels.

A substantial amount of gold is smuggled out of Zimbabwe. Due to the secrecy under which smuggling is done, it is difficult to ascertain how much gold is smuggled out.

The Minister of Home Affairs, Kazembe Kazembe, has stated that close to US$ 1.2 billion worth of gold is smuggled annually; (Netsianda, M. US$100 million gold smuggled out of Zimbabwe. Chronicle, 7 September 2020.) while Finance Minister Ncube has suggested that between 30 and 34 tonnes of gold were being smuggled to South Africa each year, (Marufu, Livingstone. Smuggling Costs Zim Gold Stash. Business Times, 14 November 2019.) - valued at around US$1.8 to 2 billion at current global gold prices. More conservative estimates put the volume of smuggled gold at close to 3 tonnes a year. (PACT. 2015. A Golden Opportunity.)

Official trade data points to significant smuggling of gold. Zimbabwe reports exporting

US$611 million worth of gold to the UAE in 2018. However, the UAE reports that US$ 821 million worth of gold was imported from Zimbabwe. (UN Comtrade database available at: Therefore, US$210 million worth of gold was taken out of Zimbabwe with no official reports of the exports made to government.

Gold Export Earnings Year by Year

See Gold


Gold exports amounted to US$753,3 million in 2015, , rose to US$913,4 million in 2016.[3]

2016 and 2017

Zimbabwe Gold Production was reported at 23,929.000 kg in Dec 2017. This records an increase from the previous number of 22,747.000 kg for Dec 2016.

2018 and 2019

Zimbabwe’s foreign currency shortages are expected to worsen in 2020 as the country’s highest forex earner, gold’s export earnings fell 28% to US$946m in 2019 from US$1.33bn in 2018.

Figures obtained from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) show that gold deliveries fell 16% to 27.6 tonnes in 2019 from 33.2 tonnes in 2018. This means that Zimbabwe missed the 40 tonnes target.

“Gold export earnings for 2019 fell 28% to US$946m from US$1.3bn in 2018 due to suspected smuggling, fuel shortages and lack of technology. From the 27.6 tonnes, small scale miners managed 17.4 tonnes against primary producers who managed 10.2 tonnes,” RBZ said in e-mailed responses.[4]

2019 and 2020

Zimbabwe’s sole gold buyer and seller Fidelity Printers and Refiners reported that the country earned US$121.1 million from gold exports in December 2020, which were 29.66% or US$27.7 million higher than the US$93.4 million earned in same month in 2019.

Cumulatively the country suffered a 5.85% or US$62 million drop in gold export earnings in 2020. The country earned a combined US$997.98 million in the calendar year of 2020 after earning US$1.06 billion in 2019. This comes as the country suffered a 31.13% drop in gold deliveries year on year in the year under review. Gold deliveries in 2020 came in at 19.05 tonnes which was 8.61 tonnes lower than the 27.66 tonnes delivered in 2019.[5]


  1. [1], Nations Encyclopedia, Accessed: 22 January, 2021
  2. Felix Todd, [2], NS Energy, Published: 15 October, 2019, Accessed: 22 January, 2021
  3. Hazel Ndebele, [3], Zimbabwe Independent, Published: 15 September, 2017, Accessed: 22 January, 2021
  4. Livingstone Marufu, [4], Business Times, Published: 16 January, 2020, Accessed: 22 January, 2021
  5. [5], Economic Times, Published: 22 January, 2021, Accessed: 22 January, 2021