By Unesco Chirinda
It is common that in whatever line of business activity that people partake in a lot of challenges and problems are faced with.
Some of these problems are natural, some are human induced whereas some arise due to changes in technology as well as policies governing the way how the business activities should be done.
And as a result, mining-one of the major pillars of the Zimbabwean economy, small scale in particular is not an exception of these challenges and problems.
To shade more light on what small scale miners go through below is an investigation into what has been and is still the outcry from those small-scale miners in Zimbabwe.
Small-scale mining is faced with a major problem of lack of capital.
It is a common fact that for every business to run smoothly there is need for capital, both financial and machinery.
Capital in terms of finance is crucial in order to acquire the necessary tools and machinery that is required for the mining operations to run smoothly.
Considering many of the small-scale miners in Zimbabwe, raising money for speculating, exploration as well as acquiring machinery such air compressors, jackhammers, dewatering pumps and wire ropes used for drilling and assisting carrying workers down the shafts respectively is a major problem.
Miners are left with no option but to work within their means, resulting in failed targets, goals or below daily production.
The end result will be an unsustainable mining operation.
One of the major growing concerns from small-scale miners is lack of policy on security in the mining sector, particularly the small-scale.
According to one of the small-scale miners, he articulated that as a country, we are now faced with a group or gangs of machete-wielding people who claim to be miners but in actual fact, being thieves and robbers.
As has been noticed these gangs had become another force if not carefully dealt with, we are breeding terror groups to which the government at one point in time will have to face them in a fierce battle. It’s believed to be another guerilla war in the making.
As a country, we are losing hard-working citizens day by day through machete inflicted deaths. There should be laws to protect miners from these groups because of the degree of the danger they are posing to the Zimbabwean economy.
One of the challenges that is hindering the small-scale mining industry in Zimbabwe is electrification of claims/mines. Having these claims electrified will assist in increasing production and reducing the associated costs making our minerals competitive on the market, as well as saving the use of firewood which will end up posing dangers to the environment. Since most of the mining activities are undertaken in the countryside one of the ways which may be adopted in trying to electrify them is through setting up solar systems which will provide electrical energy for lighting, powering equipment as well as water pumps used in drawing water from the mining wells.
Not only lack of electrification but wastage of valuable minerals as well is a challenge faced in the small-scale industry in Zimbabwe. We have noticed that valuable minerals are being wasted due to ignorance and lack of synergies between ministries, communities and mining associations. May we give an example of the current Norton – Bulawayo highway construction, it has been noticed that iron ore with 52.33%, red oxide ore with 19.68% iron (Tested by Department of Metallurgy on the 6th of May 2019 certificate no. 000739C), Gold and two (2) more other mineral ores which, due to lack of technical as well as technological support were being used as waste raw material in the road works. As a result, this calls for the support of small-scale miners through institutions that helps them in developing technical skills as well as providing technological tools needed in respective mineral tests.
On the 9th of May 2016, just a paragraph in the Chronicle says “Excavation associated with the upgrading of the Kariba South power station along the shores of Lake Kariba led to the discovery of Gold & Platinum group of mineral deposits.” Discoveries were made during sand abstraction in Gache Gache. And the major plea from the small-scale miners is for the so-called raw materials from mining be extracted off the minerals before being used. Also, may the government allow knowledge transfer between the technical people (surveyors, geologists etc.) and the miners or associations in order to boost the industry? Once small-scale miners are equipped, they will be able to use the knowledge, in mining various minable minerals like copper, manganese, gemstones, iron, tantalite etc.
For the past years we have been noticing massive deaths of miners in areas such as Bindura, Kadoma and Mutare as a result of operational disasters some of which could have been prevented. Just like in agriculture, mining as well require field officers who will assess and educate miners’ way of operation. As in any economic setup, the growth of a sector or industry is archived by a collective effort being government and the stakeholders. Artisanal miners would not grow as long as they don’t have government or ministry personnel to help them with mining and underground challenges they encounter on daily basis. With the background of poverty, lack of proper education and lack of employment most people find their way into mining but without the knowledge of the industry. The end result of this kind of venture is the loss of little saved finances, loss of lives, injuries, use of wrong mining methods as well as time wasted without production.
In addition, the artisanal and small-scale mining industry is on an upward trajectory in Zimbabwe and is estimated to be supporting over 1.5 million Zimbabweans.
As a fairly new industry, it is faced with a myriad of challenges that can be overcame if proper solutions are put in place.
As it stands right there are few specific laws governing the small-scale mining industry in Zimbabwe, the same laws for mining apply to both small scale, artisanal, and big mines.
Having one shoe fits all principle cripples the operation of the small-scale mining sector as there are a lot of challenges faced, from the capital, equipment, labour, mine regularization as all these are self-funded with no access to loans.
It’s believed that there should be a law which protects small scale miners, if endangered animal species have laws which protect them why not a sector or industry where human beings and families are concerned.
We encourage the government to come up with laws as well to protect local companies in the supply chain to get priority when it comes to supplying of all the requirements of small scale Miners because they understand their needs and challenges as opposed to big foreign companies since most of them are only interest in making profits only.
A lot of challenges are really crippling the small-scale mining industry, from the ones that have been discussed above as well as many others which may range from lack of institutions such as hospitals, schools, courts where mining legal issues are handled as well as poor infrastructure like roads leading to the mining sites.
Small scale mining industry should have such institutions in order to ensure smooth flow of their production activities since mining has proved to be one of the major drivers of the Zimbabwean economy.
Of course, those are some of the major challenges that the small-scale mining industry is facing but it doesn’t really mean that we have exhausted them, there are a lot of them however, for the sake of this article we have decided just to look on the ones above.
As a result, the government of Zimbabwe has a mammoth task of making sure that these problems are looked into a soon as the scenario has gone beyond extremely toxic levels.
The government may consider duty free importations of mining machinery, provision of mining grants as well as supporting local firms that work in glove with the miners whilst doing so within the parameters of the constitution governing mining operations.
Unesco Chirinda is Founder and Managing Director of Unilongview Pvt ltd (UNILONG) a local company which specializes in supplying mining ,industrial and agricultural equipment as well as solar products and installations He can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org. Calls 0719545341