Gwanda/ Small Scale Mining a Blessing and A Curse

Gwanda

Small scale mining brings with it a new set of problems for communities. These problems require greater government management if it is to work for the miner, workers and communities. Activists in Gwanda point out the  hazards of small scale mining in their area. At the same time there are good stories and models of how small scale mining can show the road to the future. These are also recorded by activists

  • The Lives of Small Scale miners is at Risk

Gugulethu Mnkandhla, Women Development Association in Zimbabwe (WODAZ). 09/04/2018

Most small-scale miners mainly the youth in mining along Gwanda-Beitbridge road have come to terms with using sacks, plastic and tree branches to build “houses” where they can put their heads to rest at night.

The youths don’t have any mining claims and do not have permission to build cement structures because of fear that they might extract some minerals when digging the ground. Most of them do not reap a lot of gold and hence cannot afford to be paying monthly rent in the nearby Gwanda town or to travel on a daily basis to and from town. It is because of fear that they might lose money overnight since at times they have to be working in the mines at night and every dollar counts. The miners also have no proper toilets and the bushes have become their areas of convenience. They are vulnerable to contracting diseases and have no protection against bad weather and deadly insects and reptiles. Their lives are being put at risk.

  • Disused mine pits a danger to the community

Lungile Masuku, Gwanda Community Economic Justice Development Trust (GCEJDT) 07/04/18

Community members around Gwanda and some parts of Matabeleland South province are highly concerned over human and livestock loss and land degradation that is caused by mining activities. It has been noted that small scale miners and artisanal miners are failing to reclaim pits after they have finished extracting minerals.
These pits have claimed the lives of livestock and people while others have been crippled after falling in these pits.

The community members are urging miners to keep their areas of operation protected after extraction. Miners are also encouraged to practice what is called progressive back filling of their mining operations and the areas should be fenced to prevent the entry of animals into the mining areas. Community members also appeal to EMA to closely monitor activities of mining companies, small scale miners and artisanal miners to see if they are complying with regulations regarding the environment.

  • The need for sustainable decriminalised mining is a critical need in Gwanda

Makara Alice Masawi/Gwanda Community Economic Justice Development Trust (GCEJDT)/8/04/2018

Gwanda is a small town found in the southern part of Zimbabwe in the province of Matabeleland-south. This is a dry area which makes it unfavourable for crop growing to be practised in these dry lands therefore, crop growing as a commercial venture is clearly out of the question. The people have to try other measures to earn a living.

Luckily the town, just like most parts of Mat- South, is rich on minerals, gold in particular. This had led to a creation of mines since most of the residents are into mining. Therefore mining has resulted in illegal gold panning as some residents choose to mine illegally than to settle for low wages in mining companies such as Blanket mine, Jesi mine, Vumbachikwe mine, Collen Bawn mine to mention but a few.

Illegal mining has led to increased crime rates and disease outbreaks on Gwanda. Prostitution and sexual promiscuity is the rife amongst the illegal miners as they are known to spend and live life the” fast way”. This has led to the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections, H.I.V and AIDS.
Deaths due these diseases have left behind many child-headed families. Due to financial problems faced by these types of families, many young men are entering into illegal gold panning at a very tender age to support families. Young women on the other hand are also entering prostitution in the hope of sustaining their dependent family members. All these actions create a future of youths who no longer see the value of having good mining equipment as they are just looking for quick cash. In time we are looking at a future of disastrous youths and all this emanates from the illegal mining environment in Gwanda.
Mining, both legal and illegal, has resulted in the grave danger being posed to the environment as it pollutes the land, air and water in Gwanda. Land, water and air are essential human needs and since they are part of the natural environment they should be utilised well. However the land is polluted when the earth Is drilled and shafts sank deep into the earth. When the shaft has been exhausted of all minerals, some of these open pits are being left bare destroying the natural beauty of the landscape. Mines in the Vhovha area an imprint to this as several dumps are bare and open posing danger to animal and human movement which may fall fatally into these pits. These open pits are mostly left by the illegal miners such as “abotsheketsha” or “amakorokoza” who mine recklessly with the aim of getting quick money without care or regard to environmental conservation. Water is also polluted by illegal miners who mine along river banks. Dirt is being dragged into the water by miners making the water unsafe to drink and causing diseases. The air is polluted by dust from mining sites as well as from the methane gas which is emitted from the shafts which are drilled into the ground. This methane gas is a greenhouse gas which has the effect of reacting with atmospheric Ozone layer. When the gas reacts with the ozone layer, the layer is destroyed leading to increase in atmospheric temperatures in a process called Global warming.
Gwanda is slowly dying as her environment perishes in the hands of merciless miners. All this points to danger, is there going to be a future left for our generation?
With the rate at which mining is taking place, are we not going to over mine the earth’s resources and leave no minerals for the future generations?
What sort of environment are we going to leave behind and will it be habitable for future generations of both men and animals?
With this in mind we must realise the value of sustainable mining. This is a process of obtaining and utilizing the earth’s minerals with regard to the future generation as it must also get a share of what the earth has to offer. Since Gwanda is not a crop region, minerals have to be conserved for future generations as this shall also be a source of income, livelihood, education and power to them.
Sustainable mining to combat the problems posed by mining to the environment in Gwanda can be done in a variety of ways, Firstly, the Ministry of mines and the ministry of environmental affairs should work hand in glove to adopt the system of environmental conservation mining approach. This can be done by amending laws and making them strict against illegal and unlicensed miners as these people damage the environment with their unprofessional ways of mining.
The legislature has proposed a bill in order to decriminalise artesian mining. This is good to the people as they will earn a living without fear of the police, however this will increase mining more thus adding damage to the environment. Therefore, these bills should be drafted with the need to conserve the land and the environment before passing them into laws.
Companies should get licences to mine only after they have signed a pact an environmentally friendly approach. Therefore the people have to be educated on how mining might compromise resources for our next generation. Mining should be done with precision and career given to cover pits. Finally all miners who are there are being urged to take responsibility and be extra cautious with our land as this is our first inheritance for our children.If we conserve our environment, the environment takes care of us….A sustained mining for the future is possible, it begins with each miner setting out to make a difference.

Rainy season might be good to many but a bloody blow to two major mining companies Caledonia (blanket mine)and Vumbachikwe mine which are 16km from Gwanda town .These mining companies have got one road from Gwanda town which passes through one way mutshabezi bridge which is always flooded juring the rainy season .

Caledonia (blanket mine) is one of the best producers of gold in the country and Vumbachikwe is one of the deepest mine in the country which automatically reflects they constitute a bigger part of the economy.

When we receive heavy rains the mtshabezi bridge over flow for more than 24hrs and most mine workers who stay in town won’t manage to go to work coz there is only one way to their work places .Mining industry work 24hrs and hours of less production is a blow to our economy which desperately need every ounce of gold produced every minute like yesterday

What comes as a surprise to the gwanda community who are the rightfully owners of the God given gift of Gold mined by these mining giant’s is the ignorance of construction of the mtsabezi bridge which they have used for decades enjoying the Gold from Gwanda and investing profits in their countries of origin.

Loss of production from stopped hours when the bridge over flow affects the country’s economy and the community expect that ploughing little profits in the construction of mtshabezi bridge from their God given gift can not be a loss to the mining giants who enjoyed gold profits for decades in Gwanda.

  • Biography of A Small Scale Miner

Dr Philemon Mokuele /Secretary for mat south small scale miners/13/06/2018

Dr of mines and mining Philemon Mokuele is a gold miner who started mining in 1998 as an artisenal miner ,I graduated to small scale miner in 1999 when i managed to peg my first claim.

I mined for several years with less production due to lack of mining experience ,with the desire to achieve more i accomplished several mining courses which include mining legislation,certificate in fundamentals of mining ,blasting,entrepreneurship,healthy and safety.

Phil is one of the pioneers of youths in mining from district,provincial and national level were i was elected national chairman .During my tenure youths manages to  exibit for the first time at mine entra in 2015 with the hope of advertising and attracting commercial miners to give a hand to the future leaders in skills training , mechanization and create employment ,This did not go down well with so many challenges we faced.

Running one of the most organised youth association in Gwanda we attracted non governmental organisations who trained youths how to professionally run associations with proper book keeping ,This was rewarded by a project we started in 2017 with Gwanda west nic youths in mining as the advisor and sponsor to the project and is currently producing more than 5kg per month contributing significantly to the economy.

Several mining courses which i did helped me  take mining as a business,geologically surveying the six claims i am currently running in Gwanda and managed to diversify and grow into a full time business person.

Through hard work and dedication to mining i worked tirelessly and was the youngest provincial executive for mat south small scale miners as the Secretary general , with team spirit and togetherness we managed to be one of the most organised province ,registered seventeen associations of which nine of them are ZMF affiliates

With the energetic and well experienced real miners  in the incoming ZMF executive we wish by 2020 to witness a confession of small scale miners growing to medium scale miners.

In 2018 Dr phil was attracted by young artisenal tantalite miners who have acquired a tribute in sandawana mberengwa were i am a partner and sponsor to a project we are expecting to grow to small scale tantalite miners before end of year .