The Government of Zambia has, through the European Union-funded Southern African Development Community Trade Related Facility (TRF) Project, prioritised procurement of modern mining and panning equipment for small-scale miners.
This was confirmed by Honourable Christopher Yaluma, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry (MCTI), during the inspection and handover of the equipment to mining cooperatives in Rufunsa District which was witnessed by His Excellency, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia.
“The TRF project has procured gold mining and panning equipment at a cost of 70, 000 euros. The equipment include gold detectors, panning dishes, shaking tables, sluice boxes and a metallurgical refracted darkfield microscope and are being distributed to mining cooperatives in Rufunsa, Lumezi and Vubwi Districts,” he said.
Historically, mining has been the cornerstone of Zambia’s economy. However, not until recently, concentration has been on copper with mining of other precious and semi-precious stones receiving limited attention. Therefore, in an effort to expand and diversify mining activities, the Government has placed emphasis on the need to exploit other potential minerals and gold is one of the targeted minerals.
The ensuing interest in gold stems from increasing reports of illegal mining activities taking place in key parts of the country, including Central, Eastern and North-Western Provinces. This, therefore, encouraged the Government, through the EU-funded SADC TRF, to support geological audits in Nyimba and Petauke Districts of Eastern Province to ascertain the existence of gold deposits.
A geological survey report confirmed the existence of alluvial and lode gold deposits in Petauke District. The population engaged in illegal gold mining in the district was around 6700, according to Joseph Kanyama, president of the Federation of Small Scale Mining Associations of Zambia (FSSMAZ). However, the report reveals that most miners use un-mechanised tools to mine.
“Miners utilise improvised ‘James tables’ for their processing operations but have no exploration tools or mechanised mining equipment. The excavation tools are picks and shovels only. For processing, 200-litre drums cut into half longitudinally are used as sluice boxes. Rubber mats are then laid at an angle so that as the gravel is being washed in the sluice box the minus material flows over the rubber mats leaving higher density material (including gold) on the mat. Any gold remaining on the mat is collected. Any plus size material unable to pass through the sluice box is discarded,” says the report.
Types of modern gold detectors
The hand-over was characterised with practical demonstrations of the panning process for alluvial gold. The demonstration was led by the cooperative members and Ministry of Mines. Ms Dories Daka, a youth and member of Pokela Mining Cooperative, showcased how to use the donated modern gold detector and sluice box.
Her presentation was complemented by a detailed explanation of the entire process by Mr Mutumbi Nguni, chief metallurgist. He explained that gold panning was mostly a manual technique of separating gold from other materials. He said that pans will be filled with sand and gravel that may contain gold. The pan is submerged in water and shaken, sorting the gold from the gravel and other material. As gold is much denser than rock, it quickly settles to the bottom of the pan.
He further explained that the shaking table, on the other hand, was there to separate extra fine gold from the soil and other minerals through a process called gravity separation.
Speaking after witnessing the handed over equipment and demonstration by the members of the cooperatives, President Lungu expressed happiness with the model used to empower artisan miners.
His Excellency, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, verifying a gold nugget in Rufunsa District.
He said that the Government intends to promote responsible mineral production and supply chains by encouraging legalisation and formalisation of small-scale mining and trading.
“The formation of cooperatives is just one step in having organised structures for a sound governance system. Cooperation from the communities concerned and support from the local leadership were critical success factors in this exercise. The Government is counting on you to take leadership and guard the exploitation of this resource jealously, for the benefit of the local communities” said President Lungu.