The Sunday Mail
Artisanal mining is largely poverty driven and may be the only recourse for people in a collapsing economy.
Whether or not the sector is a net contributor to sustainable development, the fact remains that artisanal mining activities will continue as long as poverty and unemployment continue to ravage many people in the country.
Small-scale mining may be defined as mining characterised by intensive labour that is not formally trained and uses the rudimentary techniques for prospecting, extracting and processing. It can be divided into three basic genres namely artisanal, traditional small-scale mining run by individuals and mechanised to semi-mechanised mining.
It is, therefore, essential to maximise the benefits brought about by artisanal and small-scale mining, enabling Government to harness the minerals produced and mitigating the costs. The Government has a pivotal role in defining policy and legal framework, incentives and processes which will regulate how artisanal and small-scale mining is carried out in the mainstream economy.
One way of placing artisanal mining in the mainstream economy is by formalising and regularising their operations. The country has approximately 40 000 registered small-scale miners, but at least 1,5 million people are involved in the trade.
Despite the low production at an individual level, the significant number of people involved means that, at a national scale, total production can be significant.
In 2005, small-scale miners produced slightly below 50 percent of the total 21 tonnes produced that year. In 2004, they produced 17 tonnes, while 2,5 tonnes were produced the previous year.
Production stalled between 2006 and 2008 when police launched operation “Chikorokoza chapera”, which saw miners leaving the trade fearing arrest. However, small-scale mining operations have continued and the miners should be regulated so that they contribute towards national development. Some of the challenges faced by small-scale miners are as follows:
Unilateral charges for prospecting by rural district councils are not uniform and most of them cannot be afforded by ordinary miners.
It has been noted that no consultations are made with miners resulting in miners being asked to pay annual levies between US$500 and US$10 000. Most miners do not renew their licences due to this, most end up opting for illegal mining.
Other requirements include an Environment Impact Assessment document before any mining operation. Most small-scale miners are unaware of environment management plans and cyanidation policies.
The Government should ensure the miners are guided to come up with these requirements so that they produce gold legally.
Wellington Takavarasha is the President of the Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small Scale Miners’ Council (ZASSMC