Panning, gold detectors, sponsorship: Sophia’s journey as a small-scale gold miner

My name is Sophia Takuva. I am a 30-year-old woman gold miner in Zvishavane, Midlands Province of Zimbabwe.

I started mining in 2014 as an artisanal miner. I was doing gold panning by the riverbank. We would put mercury in a panning dish and then dig a small pit in the river bank. The river supplied the pit with water as it flows. After that one would step inside the pit and put the panning dish with mercury under the water. We use our hands   to put the soil in the dish and also to do panning.

As time passed by, gold detectors emerged. This was an experience of a lifetime in mining.  It was easy way to discover gold nuggets through the use of gold detectors as compared to panning. We usually dig open pits and hip the ore then the use sensor or scanner. In the process we usually cut down a lot of trees. This is so because in the past we discovered more nuggets under the trees. There is a myth that says roots trap gold nuggets. I failed to get a job elsewhere therefore I practiced mining as a source of income.   

As time passed on, I started to see benefits of mining. I could afford to buy clothes, food, pay rent as well as school fees for my siblings. On seeing this, my passion for mining grew. I ventured more into mining and started sponsoring small scale miners. I supplied explosives, diesel and catered for other operational expenses. We agreed to share after milling on 33.33% mine owner, 33.33% workers and 33.33% sponsor. We shared profits after deducting expenses incurred. During the mining process we opened pits and left them uncovered. Also, the miners didn’t have Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates so whenever Environment Management Agency (EIA) teams came, we ran away to the nearby bushes and came back to the mine when we saw them driving off.

On gold processing at the mines or mills, we didn’t use mercury retorts. We burnt our amalgam gold on open air and also, we do (Serengeti) to recover more gold using our hands to touch mercury.

I was advised by another miner to join Miners Association then I started to attend meetings. I learnt a lot about the relationship between mining and the environment. Whenever we do meetings, EMA officers come and teach miners how to do mining sustainably while preserving the environment.

This year I managed to prospect and peg my own mine though my certificate is not yet approved. I am happy with the reduced EMA fees. As a small-scale miner with a project worth less than $25000 I am going to pay for an EIA for only $253.58. I attend a lot of workshops, especially by ZELA, that teach us how to mine sustainably for development and preserve the environment for the next generation.

I am now a responsible miner and have been equipped with knowledge during the leaders’ workshops we had for the past 3 days. As women miners we are going to plant trees and do a nursery for our women association, close open pits and pay Environment Management Plans. I endeavour to inspire other women miners.

 Contact details: 0717 030 814 takuvasophie@gmail.com watsapp: 071703030814 twitter: sophieTakuva@mining

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