New survey: Zimbabwe’s mining executives more confident about 2021, but worry over policy and capital remains

Zimbabwe mining executives are slightly more confident about 2021 than they were over 2020, but they expect no improvement on policy uncertainty and the lack of capital, a new survey out on Wednesday says.

The Mining Business Confidence Index (MBCI), which gauges confidence among members of the Chamber of Mines, rose slightly to 3.2 from 2.2 last year.

“This means that overall, mining executives are slightly confident about the prospects for their business in 2021 compared to 2020,” the survey says.

The index is however still far off the heights of 21.9 that it reached at the end of 2017, when hopes rose sharply in the immediate aftermath of the ouster of Robert Mugabe. Before that, the index had last been measured at -6.6%.

The index scale ranges from -100 to +100, with the lowest score representing the least level of confidence and the biggest score representing the highest.

Index of miners’ sentiment on key factors (source: CoM)

For 2021, miners are marginally more confident than in 2020. Sentiment, the survey says, has improved due to the forex auction system, better power supply, and what miners expect to be a reduced impact from COVID-19.

Some 90% of miners expect to increase production, with 40% expecting to ramp up output by at least 30%. Capacity utilisation is seen increasing to 80%, which would be a five-year high, from 61% this year and 70% in 2019.

Mine capacity use expected to reach 5-year high

“Mining executives are slightly more confident about the mining industry growth prospects for 2021. Reflecting these sentiments, about 90% of respondents are expecting the mining sector to grow in 2021, while 10% are projecting the mining industry to be at the same output levels,” says the report.

However, the slight improvement in sentiment is tempered by concerns over policy uncertainty, gold payment delays, and central bank’s currency retention scheme.

Other key findings from the survey:

  • Miners see gold output climbing to 35 tonnes in 2021 from a projected 25 tonnes this year, but only if access to capital improves. Gold accounts for 38% of Zimbabwe’s foreign currency earnings.
  • 70% of miners expect to be more profitable in 2021 than they were in 2020. Some 20% expect the same level of profit as in 2020
  • 60% expect to invest more in 2021

  • Most miners expect more “reliable and adequate power supply” in 2021. Erratic power supply has hit mining output since 2019, although miners reported an improvement in 2020.
  • 70% miners will keep the number of employees at the same level as 2020, while 20% plan to recruit more workers in 2021.
  • Mines need US$300 million in funding in 2021, but the bulk of miners are not confident they will be able to raise enough new capital. This, they say, is because Zimbabwe remains an unattractive investment destination and country risk remains high

  • Some 90% of mines expect policy uncertainty to remain an issue in 2021. “They cited misalignment in foreign exchange and fiscal framework, liquidation of unutilised nostro balances, and multiple taxes to weigh down mining operations in 2021.”
  • Gold miners want to be allowed to sell “their gold through lending banks either individually or collectively through the Chamber of Mines”
  • All gold miners surveyed reported delays in payments from RBZ’s Fidelity Printers and Refiners. They are “looking forward to an improved payment turnaround period of not more than seven days to achieve their output target”
  • Platinum output is forecast to rise to 15,200 kg in 2021 from 14,600 kg this year. Key projects are expected in the medium term
  • Miners are concerned about mining title security. “Some respondents are sceptical about the implementation of the use it/ lose it principle highlighting that it has somewhat brought uncertainty around security of title.”