Study on the operations & contributions of Women Small-scale Miners (WSM) to Zimbabwe’s economic development

Published: 11/10/2014

Research on small-scale mining on the cards

The Southern Times, 1 September 2014 – by Masimba Gomo

Bulawayo – Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small Scale for Sustainable Mining Council (ZASMC) and the Institute of African Studies will next year conduct a study on the operations and contributions of Women Small-scale Miners (WSM) to the country’s economic development. 

Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) is one of the most important livelihood activities in Zimbabwe and around most parts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Despite the actual and potential economic value of this livelihood, those occupied in ASM extraction and processing of minerals are amongst the poorest and most marginalized members of society in the region as most of their operations are deemed illegal hence they operate clandestinely affecting their revenue base. And WSM are the worst affected as they are fairly new to the trade and they are often down trodden, robbed and abused by their male counterparts.

Regional Governments need to find ways to redress the imbalance between the economic value and livelihood potential of ASM.

Accessing capital for mining ventures remains one of the biggest obstacles for WSM. Mining equipment, such as compressors for milling ore and pumps to drain water from mine shafts, are generally unaffordable, and women miners have to resort to renting equipment at high costs, eroding their profit margins.

ZASMC president Wellington Takavarasha said the research will be over a period of five years.

“We have come into partnership with Institute of African Studies headed by Prof Blair Rutherford from Carleton University (Canada) and institute of Mining Research from the University of Zimbabwe who are going to be doing research on women in mining in Zimbabwe from June 2015 to June 2020,”he said.

Although most regional governments still have a lot to do to support small-scale miners, Zimbabwe is currently leading in the quest to incorporate the miners in the economic development of the country.

To date Zimbabwe has started regularising the operations of small-scale miners by registering them, sourcing equipment for the sector and engaging the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to raise awareness on the best environmentally friendly mining methods that can be adopted to curb ecological degradation.

Mining remains an industry of strategic importance in Southern Africa. Roughly half of the world’s vanadium, platinum and diamonds originate in the region, along with 36 percent of gold and 20 percent of cobalt.

These minerals contribute greatly to gross national product and employment in SADC member states, of which the majority depend on mineral exports for their foreign exchange earnings.

In Zimbabwe small-scale miners contribute about 26% of the annual gold output of over 10 tonnes.

Recognizing the significance of the mineral industry within the region, SADC launched the Protocol on Mining in September 1997 which came into effect in February 2000, and has come to form the basis for regional work programme on mining.

This protocol aims to develop the region’s mineral resources through international collaboration, in turn improving the living standards of the people engaged with the mining industry.

Founded in 1959, The Institute of African Studies is Columbia University’s central forum and resource for African-centered academic research, program development, curriculum administration, student advisement, and local, national, and international dialogue and action.

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