Gold rush grips Chegutu

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A GOLD rush has hit the small, but mineral-rich town of Chegutu while illegal panners are raking in thousands of dollars from the yellow metal deposits at an abandoned fuel service station project. Gold deposits were discovered following an excavation at the site by Mako Properties and Construction last year. Mako Properties is the sister company to petroleum giant, Exor Petroleum. Gold panners or ‘Makorokoza’ as they are affectionately known said more than two kilogrammes of gold were extracted last week while more than seven cars were purchased from the proceeds acquired at the place. The area, situated along the Harare- Bulawayo highway, has become a hive of activity every day. More than six men who were jealously guarding a pit told The Patriot that it had the most gold deposits. The obtaining situation resembles an environment where the rule of the jungle applies, ‘survival of the fittest’. A gold panner on a shopping spree who refused to be named said he earned more than US$5 000 from the 150 grammes of gold he sold. “My brother and I got more than 150 grammes from ‘Chiadzwa’ (the new name for the area) and I have purchased several household goods,” he said. “I have also invested in the same trade and I am now buying gold instead.” Investigations by The Patriot revealed that there was a well-knit syndicate between the gold panners and their buyers. The precious mineral is fetching between US$37 and US$50 per gramme on the black market. Most of the buyers are selling the mineral in Kadoma or Kwekwe at much higher prices. Running battles have become the order of the day as police frequent the area to stop the illegal gold panning. However, the gold panners said they were aware that what they were doing was illegal saying they were merely trying to earn a living. Further investigations into the matter revealed that gold mills were also part of the network. Tonnes of goldbearing ore are extracted from the area to the nearest mill about six kilometres away from the site for processing. The mills are licensed to process gold for registered mines only. “After extracting the ore from the shafts, we take our ‘stove’ (gold bearing ore) to the mill and have it processed and they charge three points (about one third of a gramme) of gold per hour for processing,” said one panner who asked anonymity. “After the process, we take our gold to the buyers.” Another gold panner identified as Punzarima said he had earned good money from the area and was looking forward to making even more this week. “This time, I am going to buy a better car than the Toyota Corolla I have because I now need a Mark II or Chaser,” said Punzarima who was in a shaft, about eight metres deep. Some of the gold panners said it was appropriate for the relevant Ministry to reserve the area and ensure registration for small-scale miners for legal operations to take place. Environmentalists, however, argue that the establishment of a mine in a residential area was not feasible. A resident in the area, Joel Chitiga, said the discovery of the precious metal had brought more harm than good. He said the neighbourhood was now living in fear of the uncouth behaviour of illegal miners. “We need something to be done about the goings on here,” said Chitiga. “The pits in the area need to be rehabilitated and relevant authorities should swiftly come in to deal with this situation.” Contacted for comment, Mako Properties and Construction management refused to comment on whether they had shelved plans to develop a service station or not

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