Subsistence miners lose out as coronavirus crushes local gold prices – by Helen Reid and Jeff Lewis (Reuters U.S. – March 31, 2020)

JOHANNESBURG/TORONTO, March 31 (Reuters) – Informal gold miners from South America to Africa are selling gold at almost 40% discounts as measures to curb the coronavirus crimp supply routes and dry up funding.

Border restrictions and flight cancellations have created gold gluts in local markets, depressing prices for small-scale miners even as global prices are pushed back towards 7-year highs by investors piling into bullion as a safe-haven asset.

Artisanal miners – subsistence workers who typically use rudimentary techniques – number around 40 million worldwide, according to a 2019 estimate by Delve, an artisanal mining database.

Those mining gold account for 20% of global gold supply, the World Bank estimated in 2013. With limited capital and few other options, miners who typically receive between 3% to 5% less than the global market price have been forced to accept steep discounts.

“The prices have really gone down,” said Blessing Hungwe, an artisanal gold mine owner near Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, who splits her revenues with 25 workers. “Because the borders have been closed, buyers can’t be moving gold into South Africa and getting cash back.”

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