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Child participation at closed mines worrisome

By Business Reporter – Monday 8 February 2021

HARARE (Mining Index) –  WHILE some Small-scale Miners have organized themselves into formalized tribute agreements to extract various minerals at defunct mines, artisanal miners are mining illegally, roping in children to participate in unlawful mining activities, a Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) situational report revealed.

In its 5th edition of the Artisanal, Small- and Large-Scale Mining (ASLM) Situational Report, ZELA observed a high number of nonoperational, large scale mines around the country that produce gold, asbestos, chrome and diamonds.

In most countries, child labour in the extractives sector is illegal.

‘At some closed mine sites, illegal artisanal mining operations are taking place and in some cases such operations involve child participation in mining especially during the height of COVID-19 lockdown and the school closure period,’

‘This has negative implications on the artisanal and small-scale mining value chain. Sourcing gold from mines operated by children affects the marketing of the mineral,’ said ZELA.

The report focused on mines in Mberengwa, Zvishavane, Shurugwi, Mazowe, Bindura, Chinhoyi, Mutoko, Masvingo, Mvuma, Penhalonga and Shamva areas.

‘Most of these mines were closed due to the poor economic and political environment obtaining in the country or purely mismanagement especially some of the state-owned ones and those under the administration of the Government appointed managers,’

‘Some of the mines are operating under judicial management or under the management of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC),’ said ZELA.

ZELA observed an increase in the number of formalised artisanal small-scale miners into cooperatives which in turn entered into mining agreements to mine on land belonging to closed mining companies, and this is being done through tributary agreements.

‘In turn artisanal miners or small-scale miners are now operating at some mines under tribute agreements entered with the mine owners,’

‘Another observation was that at some of the old mines’ partnerships with artisanal and small-scale miners have been entered into to exploit gold resources, while in some cases former workers are mining illegally for gold, chrome or other minerals,’ said ZELA.

In the gold sector, artisanal and small-scale miners are currently the largest contributors of gold, the largest foreign currency earner in the country, some of whom are operating at closed gold mine sites including the famous old German mining tunnels in different parts of the country.

Retrenched workers from these mines are now working as artisanal miners in these areas, using rudimentary mining tools and methods.

‘This has become their main source of livelihoods or a way to augment the meagre salaries for those still employed to ensure care and maintenance work at closed mines. There are a number of unresolved conflicts and remuneration issues at many closed mining sites,’

‘The machinery and infrastructure at many of the closed mine sites is highly depreciated to be used again,’ revealed ZELA. ENDS//

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