The president of Women in Mining (WIM), Mthandazo Muhau, said that almost 7,000 of the 30,000 registered miners are women. Although they still lag far behind their male counterparts, the increase in their numbers recently has been significant.
“Traditionally, mining was believed to be reserved for men. But over recent years, the sector has witnessed a great number of women become involved successfully and making an honest living out of it,” she said.
She said their organisation was specifically designed to assist women interested in getting involved in the lucrative sector. “Naturally, women are honest and hardworking. If we had more active women in mining, we would be able to attain the much needed national development,” said Muhau.
However, she lamented that there are still various bottlenecks affecting women in mining. These include the cost and bureaucratic hurdles one has to overcome in order to acquire a mining license.
One first has to secure a prospective mining license for $350 before engaging a pegger, who charges from $200 up to $500, to help identify the land. There is need to verify with the Ministry of Lands whether the claim is not occupied by another miner. After that, the land is registered by the ministry for $200 per 10 hectares of a gold claim. The process can take up to three months.
Having successfully registered the piece of land, an Environmental Impact Assessment from the Environmental Management Agency is needed. This costs $310.
A further $350 has to be paid for the services of a land surveyor before the granting of the approval to mine. This process can also take several months to complete. Muhau said this costly and bureaucratic process had pushed most artisanal miners, men included, into illegal mining practices.
“You find that most people who are in artisanal mining are at subsistence level only. It becomes a challenge for women to go through such a tiresome and costly process. Not to mention that they have to compete with their male counterparts who usually are given first preference,” she said.
Muhau said due to such factors, unregistered female miners sell their produce at the black market since they cannot approach Fidelity. Those who are registered only sell a small portion of their gold to Fidelity as they prefer the black market, she added.
Muhau said it is against such shortcomings that WIM was established in 2013 to encourage illegal female miners to register and normalise their operations. The organisation has been moving around areas infested with illegal miners and assisting women to register. These areas include Collen Bown in Gwanda, Esgodini, Kazangarare in Karoi and Chishapa in Shamva.
“We approach a registered miner who leases his claim to us. We then arrange with the women to form syndicates of up to five women to work on the claim,” said Muhau. The women would then work to raise funds to acquire equipment and mining licenses of their own.
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