The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has revealed that the lockdown is impacting negatively on the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining sector whereby they are facing low production levels, manpower and supply chain problems which has seen most miners not processing their ore but piling it for future processing.
Statistics from Fidelity Printers and Refiners shows that gold production from small-scale mines which incorporates artisanal miners was a mere 1061.6kg for March 2020, although the figures might be much lower for April 2020.
According to the ZELA third series of the Mining Sector communities situational report, in Bubi the Chinese gold milling company that miners rely on is closed and this has affected their production and sales.
“A gold miner in Mazowe noted that since the pronouncement they are managing six tonnes a day from three shafts.
“Miners in Zvishavane are not working normal hours like they used to, and this has affected production.
“In Mberengwa, production is still subdued since most suppliers of essential consumables like machine spares and explosives do not have stock and are in dire need to import towards stock replenishment.
“Production in Gwanda has also reduced since miners are operating with half their staff complement.
“Vectis 20, a woman owned small-scale gold mine in Gwanda has reduced production by 75%.
“The mine is now operating from 8am-2pm. Previously, the mine operated for 24hours with workers taking shifts.
“Before COVID-19, the mine would produce an average of seven tonnes of ore in two days. The output has now gone down to an average of two tonnes in two days.
“This in turn is affecting staff salaries, servicing loans, fuel and other overhead costs.In Bubi, a few ASM miners obtained the exemption to mine,” reads the report.
According to the report, those who obtained the exemption are operating on a half day basis while most of their workers are stuck at their rural homes as they do not have access to transport to go back to work.
“However, in Mazowe and Gwanda some miners reported that they have asked their workers with pre-existing conditions who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 to stay home until the situation stabilises.
“From a mining supply chain perspective production has also been affected by the lockdown.
“Some miners indicated that since other sectors of the economy have not been exempted to operate, it is difficult for the mining sector to operate in isolation as they rely on other sectors which are part of the mining supply chain.
“In Mazowe, some artisanal and small-scale miners have been working using exemption letters,” read the report.
After the pronouncement, some miners went back to work on a full-time basis. For example, a miner operating three shafts and two hammer mills has 20 people on site.
The report added that the Shurugwi Development Trust (SDT) has around 60 people at its Lulu site including staff, which is roughly a 20% of the whole population of its workers under normal circumstances.
“They have selected few shafts with high returns that are currently being utilised.
“In Zvishavane, some miners (even those who had not yet received their exemption application approvals in the first phase of the lockdown) have returned to their workplaces and are operating within the confines of the SI 94 of 2020.
“Mining sites have a workforce that does not exceed10 workers. Some miners in Mberengwa are back at work now. On average each miner has seven (7) to fifteen (15) workers per site.
“To ensure physical distancing, the number of workers for Vectis 20 mine in Gwanda for example was reduced from 36 to six staff members and among the six remaining, two are women to make sure the sleeping quarters are not crowded,” said ZELA.