Zimbabwe aims to become one of the top five gold producing countries in Africa in three years with the government trying to "de-criminalize" gold panners, state media reported Sunday, quoting finance minister Patrick Chinamasa. Chinamasa said legalizing the operations of gold panners was crucial if the country was to realize a substantial increase in gold output. He said Zimbabwe had over 20,000 gold panners whose output, if properly accounted for, would significantly increase the country's gold output. Zimbabwe's gold output reached 14 tonnes in 2012 and is expected to top 17 tonnes this year. The Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe has said that gold production could reach 50 tonnes in the next five years. However, the chamber said to achieve the goal was dependant on the gold sector securing 1 billion U.S. dollars in fresh capital over the next five years, and the availability of reliable power supplies. South Africa, which produced 290 tonnes of gold last year, is the top producer of the yellow metal on the continent, followed by Ghana, Mali, Tanzania and Guinea.