- November 23, 2020
- Posted in LOCAL
Christopher Columbus once said, “those who had something of gold were in possession of something of great value on earth and a substance to even help souls to paradise.”
By Sharon Tsuro
Gold is a non-reactive transition metal with an atomic number 79. It has a density of 19.30 g/cm3 in solid form and 17.31 g/cm3 in a liquid state. Gold boils at 2970 °C and melts at 1064.18 °C. This metal is a chemical element with the symbol Au which is derived from its Latin name, Aurum. Gold is rated 2.5 on Moh’s scale of hardness. It is an inert metal but dissolves in aqua regia. Gold is converted into a water-soluble coordination complex by cyanide and binds with mercury to form an amalgam. This yellow metal is diamagnetic, malleable, ductile and a good conductor of heat and electricity. Its characteristics make it suitable for application in various industries. It is used in dentistry, aerospace, medicine, electronics, jewellery and as a currency. The value of gold is usually determined by demand. Zimbabwe is one of the countries that are rich in gold. Unfortunately, the economic situation of the country is poor and a very small percentage of the Zimbabwean population actually own a stake in this wealth.
Gold is found in reef or placer deposits. Each type of deposit demands a different type of mining method. A gold reef is where gold is found in its original rock host. In this article particular reference will be made to placer deposits. These are found in the form of alluvial, residual and bench deposits. Alluvial deposits are the most common type of placer gold deposits and are often the richest. They contain pieces of gold that have been washed away from the lode by the force of water and have been deposited as sediments in or near water bodies, hence they are mostly found in valleys or flood plains. Alluvial gold is present along all the major rivers draining the greenstone belts in Zimbabwe. This type of gold mining attracts many prospectors due to its low demand in capital costs and the simplicity of the gold processing techniques involved. Sluicing, dredging or panning are the most used methods of gold recovery in which the density of gold is manipulated in the classification process.
According to the 1961 Mines and Minerals Act which still governs mining law, any individual, provided they are a permanent resident of Zimbabwe is allowed to apply for a mining license. This entails that anyone interested in building the economy of Zimbabwe through mining is welcome to do so. However, in the case of the majority of Zimbabweans, financial constraints are usually a stumbling block. Most Zimbabweans cannot afford the capital required to do mining. Although all these factors justify why we need foreign investments, nationalization of our mineral resources is a critical matter which can be addressed if placer deposits are reserved for Zimbabweans particularly alluvial gold mining.
Owing to the great demand in capital investments in reef gold mining, it is quite understandable that we would need foreign investments, however, where alluvial gold mining is concerned, the first preference should be given to the locals. The month of September saw the Mazoe river heavily populated by gold panners. Many purchased engines, bought PPE and food for the workers in preparation for the mining activities. For a moment, everyone wondered where the authorities were to stop these “illegal” mining activities. Food stalls were built along the river banks and a whole community was formed in a matter of days. Just as they had started extracting gold, the national security forces were deployed to clear everyone out, no considerations were made for the investments made by the people, they were all chased like criminals because the Chinese owned company which has rights to mine in that area could not approve. It was quite a sorry sight as some had sacrificed the little they could to invest in this, others even sold their livestock to get capital. Most of the people of Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe district, particularly Maramba incurred huge losses. In as much as these activities were not justified, it is quite difficult to understand why the authorities waited until people had invested so much only to then chase them out before they got value for their efforts.
In an article published by Manicapost Rumbidzai Zinyule said, “… a Belarus mining company is coming in to sustainably mine alluvial gold along the Pungwe and Rusitu riverbeds to regularize illegal mining activities by gold panners that have contributed to significant pollution of both rivers”. It is from this development that one is compelled to wonder if the Zimbabwean government is so poor that it cannot afford to fund alluvial gold mining projects to economically empower the Zimbabwean people. Have we developed a dependence syndrome so bad that we need foreign assistance in the carrying out mining activities as simple as alluvial gold mining? For as long as we as people get comfortable with the idea of working for and submitting to aliens in our own country, we are bound to be impoverished forever.
Mr Seenza also said, “JOC made efforts to contain the illegal gold miners but they came back and continued polluting the environment…” as if our own people’s dirt is too bad as compared to foreign investors’ dirt. He continued, “The plan now is to bring in companies that will mine sustainably along the riverbeds. The company will employ those miners who have been working there so they can continue to make a decent living through formal employment” An assessment if this statement would make one wonder if Zimbabwe as a nation has lost hope in the indigenization of its own resources. Are we ever going to believe in our own capabilities as a people if we continue to get comfortable with the idea of “making a decent living through formal employment? Financial independence is a dream that will never come true for Zimbabwe for as long as we lack the courage to take the bull by its horns. We are more comfortable with the idea of being employed. It is quite sad to realize we have been so brainwashed that we demonize ourselves for extracting resources that are rightfully ours. Why has it become so easy to refer to our own as “illegal gold miners”, “makorokoza”, “maGweja” who are incapable of sustainably mining along river beds? In any case, these are hardworking people who aren’t stealing from anyone but rather, exploiting their own resources with limited funds. All they require are pieces of paper to legitimize their operations as well as facilitate accountability and help in tax collection and EMA regulations. It would help if the government did more to help legalize alluvial gold mining activities as well as fund them. This is where the essence of organizations such as the Zimbabwe Miners Federation and others come in handy. The gold that lies in abundance beneath our feet is our birthright. Its high time we made efforts to curb imperialism by standing on our own feet.
When they said Zimbabwe is open for business, I would like to believe it was open for the ordinary Zimbabwean as well. This idea is synonymous with the IMF-funded Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) which was pursued in the nineties. Its major aim was to take Zimbabwe’s tightly controlled economy and convert it into an open, market-oriented one. The restructuring was aimed at inducing higher economic growth by reducing poverty and unemployment through four main streams: Reducing fiscal and quasi-public shortfalls as well as institute prudent monetary policies, liberalization of trade policies, carrying out domestic isolationism and setting up social safety nets and training programs for vulnerable groups. According to Raftopoulos & Compagnon- 2003, this was intended to reduce unemployment by increasing the size of Zimbabwe’s economy with the intention of creating new black-owned businesses rather than inheriting existing white and foreign-owned businesses.
With the current financial state of Zimbabwe, it may be hard to fathom that we will be able to attain financial independence, however, a step in the right direction will guarantee the much needed economic liberty in the long run. While it may be quite complicated to nationalise most of the gold mines in Zimbabwe at the moment due to lack of funds to expropriate the existing mining firms let alone fund the projects, reserving alluvial gold mining rights for Zimbabweans only can be the first step. It does not require as much capital as mining in reefs demands. Nationalisation allows profits to be equitably distributed amongst more people and the country as a whole. It can lead to regional economic development of Africa as a whole. This concept prevents private monopolies, hence protecting consumers from restricted quantities and inflated prices. Nationalisation’s objective is social welfare, wealth or profit maximisation, therefore more people benefit. It can lead to economies of scale, improved quality and greater efficiency resulting in increased employment and greater job security.
In short, it is vital to curb imperialist motives. This advocacy of being economically dominated and controlled by other states makes Zimbabwean independence a mere illusion. Unless efforts are made to indigenize our resources, we will never be free!