Women miners have revealed that the ban on exports of raw lithium has affected their operations with some incurring huge losses since they were caught unaware.
Speaking to Great Dyke News 24, Women Empowerment in Mining Zimbabwe National Director Chiedza Chipangura said the lithium policy is not yet clear for miners.
“The ban on the exports of raw lithium is really affecting us in that there were no set guidelines, the ban was just announced. We were not given time to clear the stocks that we had piled up, as a result some buyers then bought these at close to nothing because we became desperate as we had put in money towards extraction.
“So it has affected us in that we made some passive losses and the income that we expected never came around. Even other things that we were doing where we took the money to invest in extraction we can’t even recover it.
“So those are the passive losses that we suffered. In addition to that law enforcement agencies were not clear as well as to what should happen. Yes, there is a ban on the export but as a miner should I stop operating?
“We are at the mercy of law enforcement agencies who don’t know how far to go. According to me, the ban did not stop us from extracting, mining, or from trading locally but it stopped us from exporting. So the movement of lithium within our borders has actually been a challenge because the police now are making a field day out of us demanding bribes. Some of us are even getting arrested. So it has really affected us badly,” she said.
She added that the export ban has created marketing challenges as there are fewer buyers on the market.
“Now there are a few buyers but prior to the ban buyers were in abundance. You didn’t really have to market, the buyers looked for you, the market looked for you. But as of now, it’s an uphill task. Nobody is buying and you are stuck with what you have.
Asked about how many women are into lithuim mining she said it was difficult to come up with a figure as some people are no longer openly conducting their mining activities due to the export ban.
“Sadly I can’t come up with statistics as of now because of the ban people are now doing it under the carpet. Nobody is really coming out to say this is what I am doing.
“However as we go on there was a Base Minerals Conference that was held by ZMF. I saw quite a number of women. There is another one coming up being held by Minex specifically on lithium on the 30 of March so that will give us figures, that will give us indications of how many women are involved.
“However the fact is women are involved in the actual extraction, women are also involved in the buying of the lithium, and women are also involved in the supply of different goods and services towards lithium so yes women are involved in the lithium mining value chain.
Marvelous Dodzo, a lithium miner from Mutoko said the ban has caused local miners to be exploited by foreign investors who are buying the mineral at low prices.
“Before the ban of raw lithium we were not exporting but the market was huge, a lot of locals could come and buy from us and now it seems like only the Chinese are benefiting and they now have the bargaining power over locals.
“A lot of people are now being relocated from their homes to different places, this clearly shows that we are no longer benefitting, rather it’s now a disadvantage to us since we are now being separated from our relatives. A lot must be done to make sure that locals benefit from our mineral,” she said.
Meanwhile, Minex in partnership with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Agency, (ZELA) will be hosting a lithium workshop on the 30th of March in Harare to explore opportunities within the lithium value chain. The workshop will be running under the theme “Unlocking Value From Lithium” . The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development is the invited guest of honour.