Have you heard of small scale mining in Zimbabwe? Well, it is a mining activity undertaken by individuals in their own personal accord.
These people are not employed by any company and they use their own resources to mine and for them to get the gold they have to usually mine it manually.
In fact, Zimbabwe has one of the largest known mineral deposits lying around in different parts of the country. It was ranked among the top ten countries with the largest mineral deposits and above that this has seen most people opting for small scale mining methods especially in chrome and gold.
Even though small scale mining in Zimbabwe is an activity that has been ongoing since the pre-colonial times, it was legalized in the 20th Century.
There was no rule as to how to start small scale mining until the process became legal. Legalization came with its own challenges, one of them being the issue on how to manage small scale mining now that it had the force of law.
According to the World Bank, Zimbabwean youth unemployment rate stands at about 48 per cent. Therefore, being a small scale miner offers much-needed employment opportunities to the youth as it employs almost double the number of miners employed by mainstream mining. It also slows down the rural to urban migration Small scale mining projects are mostly located in rural areas. Therefore, people who want to benefit from the trade will have to live or move into in the rural areas and this will help in the decongestion of major cities.
The money that is derived from small scale mining activities is mostly used in the country as opposed to the money made by multinational organizations who send the money to their country of origin.
In addition, this somehow controversial practise of artisanal and small-scale mining has managed to offer millions of marginalised people a sustainable livelihood despite serious knowledge gaps in the sector that hinder effective and inclusive policymaking.
It has also been proven that artisanal and small-scale mining employs 10 times more people than large-scale mining, providing jobs and income for 20-30 million of the world’s poorest people and supporting the livelihoods of five times that number.
In Zimbabwe, this industry plays a pivotal role in providing much-needed employment in an economy that is
currently battling massive job losses and a foreign currency squeeze.
The sector is partly driven by increasing global demand for minerals such as tin and tungsten together with chrome which are used widely in the construction of high-technology gadgets.
But the sector also involves poor and vulnerable people, including women and children, and is renowned for its harsh working conditions and severe pollution: it is the world’s second-biggest mercury polluter (mercury is used in small-scale mining for gold).
There is a perception that ASM is a “get-rich-quick” activity. This has misinformed legislation and extension
programs and led to the application of one-size-fits-all policies. However, people working in ASM are far from the same.
They range from those whose livelihoods rely on subsistence farming to skilled workers who migrated from urban areas in search of work. Despite its low productivity, ASM is an important source of minerals and metals. It accounts for about 20 per cent of the global gold supply, 80 per cent of the global sapphire supply and 20 per cent of the global diamond supply.
Small scale mining is also a major producer of minerals indispensable for manufacturing popular electronic products, such as laptops and phones. For example, 26 per cent of global tantalum production and 25 per cent of tin comes from small scale mining.
On the global front, small scale mining is recognized as a considerable source of revenue for millions of people in about 80 countries worldwide. Small scale mining takes place in diverse regions of the world, mostly in the global South—Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Oceania, Central and South America.
In conclusion, the term “small-scale” has been defined in various ways, often characterized in terms of the number of miners, the production capacity of a mine, the level of mechanization or size of capital investments.
This article first appeared in the Mining Zimbabwe magazine March 2019 issue