Compiled By Chenai Chingwaramuse-Student
The mining industry in Zimbabwe has been one of the economic pillars since time in memorial. It is estimated that 60% of the country’s export earnings are from the mineral exports while the mining sector covers 16% of the national Gross Domestic Profit. It is however unfortunate that this sector has been greatly affected by the advent of COVID-19, not forgetting important players in the industry these also include young female artisanal miners. Recently the engagement of women in the mining industry mostly as artisanal miners in Zimbabwe is increasing and a few of them are classified as youth i.e. age between 20 -35. The government has made great efforts to engage women in mining by offering them loans through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and Women Bank. Rumor has it that most beneficiaries of these loans were single mothers and widows and a few of them were young women.
The challenges that young women are facing revolve around societal opinions on gender equality ,legal and policy restrictions and lack of adequate support from the government .Society plays a bigger role in demotivating young women into this sector usually by the patriarchal approach that demean the mindset, physic and general capability of women. Despite these challenges, women now constitute approximately fifty percent of small-scale miners in Zimbabwe and in this 50% only 5% are young women. Accepting young women in the industry will help alleviate poverty and will help the government’s goal of 100 tons of gold by 2023 . The research done showed that only a few women working in Zimbabwe mining companies are in managerial positions and of the few women none are youth. This raises an alarm as to the future we are preparing for our country. The question in mind then comes that are young women shying away from these positions or are these companies are just giving a blind eye to young women?
Effects of Covid 19 to the Zimbabwe mining industry
The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company has about 300 000 carats of diamonds which were due to be auctioned at the beginning of April but were affected by the Covid 19 pandemic ,which has forced many countries to close boarders as to contain the deadly virus. The lockdown measures have not only deprived Zimbabwe of potential traders but also shattered the country’s domestic mineral production as mining despite the sector exempted from total lockdown by government as it is an essential service . However, the mining sector reported 36 cases of Covid 19 with four deaths by May 2020 ,and significant disruption to production .
Artisanal miners in Zimbabwe also faced challenges due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Artisanal Miners and different stakeholders in the mining sector gathered for a Midlands Mining Indaba organised by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) and Zimbabwe Council of Churches(ZCC) held 21 August 2020 to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the mining industry. During the indaba, Mrs Maphosa an artisanal miner in Zvishavane said they faced challenges as they had left their places of work for the lockdown period and they returned after the exemption by the government only to find that some of their equipment had been stolen and now they had to start looking for money so as to buy new equipment and this really disadvantaged them.
Furthermore, artisanal miners mentioned that travelling wasn’t easy for them to go with their gold to Fidelity Printers for processing. Transport was scarce and they had to wait for long hours before they got it and some of them were being robbed before even getting to Fidelity resulting in gold leakages as these people would resort to selling it to the black market as they has no licenses to sell to Fidelity.
Artisanal miners lack resources to be more effective during the COVID_19 lockdown period. Another problem they mentioned was issue of travelling letters. The authorities require an individual to have this letter and most of the artisanal miners did not have access to these letters.Additionally, most artisanal miners do not have the required protective clothing for example the masks and face shields hence they tend to work underground without the required clothing. Nonetheless, the government and other stakeholders are called upon to support this sector by finding means to provide sanitizers ,masks and face shields to artisanal miners. Health workers in operation with the ministry of health should also educate the miners on ways of preventing the spread of the deadly virus .
To conclude, the mining industry has been affected by the
COVID-19 pandemic. It is inevitable to ignore the impact it has had on the
nation.There should be more female youth providing their skills and energy in
mining organisations for example. Notably, the government should be more
welcoming to offer loans to young women without hesitation to undo the societal
 (Dreschler;Hoardly and Limpitlaw 2004).