Mining Sector and Communities Situational Report
Series Date of
Issue: 21 -28 March 2020
in Selected Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) Communities
day before the declaration of a National Lockdown by the President of Zimbabwe,
and with five officially confirmed COVID-19 cases, one casualty and counting,
ZELA conducted a quick survey of the state of play in artisanal and small-scale
mining communities. The idea was to assess how women miners, artisanal and
small-scale miners and diggers, villagers and mining affected communities are
coping and responding to the global threat, anxiety, fear and deaths brought
about by COVID-19. Around the world, COVID-19 is gravely disrupting whole
mining supply chains, economies, the social fabric, stretching service delivery
capacities, and in the process raising profound state, private sector and
political accountability questions. The pandemic has just started to do the
same in Zimbabwe. Many rural families in Zimbabwe depend on mining and other
natural resources for their livelihoods. Artisanal gold mining in particular,
is a primary source of income for communities in mineral rich areas. As ZELA we
work with community monitors, women groups and mine workers across the country
and we want to keep our fingers on the pulse with regards to developments on
the ground and the impacts of COVID-19 in communities that anchor our
programming. With our project officers locked-down and working remotely, we
have decided to design, compile and disseminate a Weekly COVID-19 Mining Sector and Communities Situational Report,
starting with this First Series. The Situational Report will be compiled from
simple, yet informative updates from a network of
more than 200 community monitors based in different mining and natural
resource rich areas in Zimbabwe. The monitors use their own local contacts and information
gathering skills imparted to them over several years of ZELA programming in
those areas. The Weekly Situational report will cover the impacts of COVID-19
and developments at community level including the following aspects; safety,
health, environment, social distancing, availability of medical or preventive
facilities, status of social service delivery, Government and private sector
actions or interventions among other issues. For a start, in this issue we have
managed to compile updates from Gwanda, Shurugwi, Zvishavane and Bubi.
- Before the
announcement of the National Lockdown most artisanal and small-scale miners in
Gwanda, Bubi, Shurugwi and Zvishavane were mining and not paying close
attention to the threats posed by COVID-19. It was business as usual. No one
was adhering to the social distancing advice.
- Most miners
do not have Personal Protective Equipment such as face masks, gloves and hand
sanitizers to protect themselves from contracting the virus (message from Gwanda).
However, a few people in Gwanda have started to take some preventive measures
like wearing face masks, gloves and washing hands.
- In remote
mining areas and underground pits artisanal miners, diggers and rural people
there is little or no knowledge of the causes, transmission, symptoms and
effects of COVID-19.
- Some mine
owners in Gwanda, Bubi and Shurugwi are still operating after providing workers
mutton cloths to cover their faces as they cannot find masks which have run out
of stock. In Bubi, a few mine owners are providing workers with gloves,
methylated spirit, dish washer for cleaning hands and encouraging them to
minimize movements and to avoid alcohol and cigarette sharing.
- A few shops
and buses in Gwanda are providing hand sanitizers at the door, while for some
commuter omnibuses the behaviour of overloading people continues as usual
- Many people
in the rural areas cannot afford medical services offered in the communities
for treating some of the COVID-19 symptoms. Sadly, in many mining areas no
COVID-19 isolation centres exist.
Artisanal and small-scale miners in Gwanda and Bubi reduced manpower and the
number of workers at the mine site. Those mine workers who can afford bus fare
have gone to their rural homes, while those without are staying at the mine but
not working. At one mine site in Gwanda, a miner with 18 workers had to send 14
of her workers home remaining with 4 of the critical staff.
- After the
declaration of the Lockdown on 27th March 2020, most miners in
Gwanda scaled down their operations and workforce leaving them only with
skeletal staff that will provide security.
- A few women
miners in Bubi decided to stop operations completely to protect the safety and
health of their workers and clients.
- With little
knowledge on the virus and prevention methods for the COVID-19, some mine
owners in Gwanda have been seen conducting a series of lessons targeting their
workers on World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended COVID-19 prevention
guidelines circulated on social media groups such as WhatsAPP.
- Some mine
owners live in fear that if they stop mining operations and go on self-isolation,
they might lose their claims to other miners who may invade or takeover during
- Some gold
buyers were reportedly buying gold on the cheap from artisanal miners since the
prices had started to go down. Gold is a store of value-they will resale when
prices go up after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
- The current
low gold prices have affected profitability and income for miners in all areas
and those community members earning their livelihoods along the gold supply
chain at community level. The ripple effect is that miners are now forced to
mine more to make up for the loss and be able to take something home (Gwanda).
- In Gwanda and
Bubi artisanal miners and communities struggle to get clean and potable water
for domestic use and for mining. Communities have to converge at the few water
points. In areas where water is
available the water rates charged by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority
(ZINWA) are too high and unaffordable for many.
- There is fear
that a combination of COVID-19 and the current economic challenges might give
rise to another spike in criminality and violence in artisanal mining
and mining companies have so far not done enough to educate communities on
COVID-19 although some miners and communities are getting information
circulated on social media and via the radio. However, in Gwanda the Mayor
organised an educational campaign with posters on COVID-19 while the Pretoria Portland
Cement(PPC) issued hand sanitizers and masks to the miners , while in Shurugwi
(Tongogara) an awareness session on COVID-19 was conducted at the local clinic
involving the district nursing officer, district medical officer, district
environmental health technician and the local Member of Parliament.
- In a statement
on COVID-19 issued on the 21st of March by the Zimbabwe Miners
Federation (ZMF), a representative body of artisanal and small-scale miners in
Zimbabwe, miners were encouraged to adhere to WHO recommended safety and
hygiene standards including effectively practicing social distancing. However,
the association urged miners to continue mining operations while adhering to
recommended health standards. This may explain why many artisanal and
small-scale miners continued mining before the announcement of the Lockdown on
the 27th of March 2020.
Safe, Stop the Spread, Save Lives
by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), 26B Seke Road, Hatfield, Harare www.zela.org;
“Environmental justice through sustainable and equitable utilisation of
natural resources and environmental protection”