March is National Women’s Month, and a wonderful opportunity to recognize the hardworking women whose dedication strengthens the mining community.
Although cultural and historical aspects have relegated women’s participation to the periphery, women have always been part of the mining workforce.
Women have primarily been involved in crushing, sluicing, washing, panning, sieving, sorting, mercury-gold amalgamation, amalgam decomposition, and, in rare occasions, actual mining.
Women are also active in the provision of goods (for example, food and drink vending and sales of artisanal equipment such as sieves, ) and services among other things.
However, the cultural and institutional constraints women face have ensured their involvement in the most value-bearing places such as pits and fair markets is practically non-existent.
Women work across the mining sector in diverse roles such as geologists, truck drivers, accountants, lawyers, operators and managers.
In today’s edition of celebrating women in mining, Great Dyke News 24 reporter Jeoffrey Ncube (JN) spoke to one of the women in mining Lindi Mpofu (LM) to understand how women are surviving in the male-dominated industry.
JN: Can you tell us who you are?
LM: My name is Lindi Mpofu, I am a chrome miner and mining consultant, I currently sit as Vice President of Zimbabwe Miners Federation and I am the ZMF National 2nd Chrome Representative and a Consultative Committee member of the Minerals and Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe and Executive Board Member Zimbabwe Femcom Chapter.
JN: Can you tell us about your journey into mining.
LM: I started my journey into mining working for mining companies in Africa, I have worked in the Coal, Tantalite, Chrome and Gold sectors and traded each of those minerals, co-ordinated resource identification and verification, done claims registration and regulatory requirements, and ensured trade compliances, before investing and branching out into actually mining my own claim.
JN: How did you find your claim?
LM: I had heard there were some very lucrative mining areas in the Guruve area and the areas had not been fully exploited so I went to the geological office in Mashonaland Central and spoke to the officials there about the prospective chrome areas they knew about. They directed me to a general area. I headed there the following week with my partners to talk to the village heads and chief.
Upon talking to the herdsmen of the area he directed me to a well known hunter who knew the mountain ranges well. I then made an appointment to travel back and meet with him so he could take me to the area. On the morning of the set date we drove up the mountains until we reached a sort of dead end in the middle of nowhere, where he said we were to park the car and continue the journey on foot.
On that day I learnt that the word near can have a whole different meaning in the village. We trekked all morning on a foot path until around 1pm at which point I was all but exhausted and starting to fear the worst as we were out in the middle of nowhere and I was miles away from the car and my memory was starting to fade as we had taken so many twists and turns but because I’m determined by nature and I had come so far already I was hesitant to turn back without accomplishing my mission.
I started to question the hunter but he kept insisting we were near and I would not regret as he knew an area that had an abundance of the rock samples I had shown him. I gathered myself and kept trekking sweating all over and dying of thirst as I had long drank my water.
After another two hours of solid trekking we finally arrived at the spot and to my surprise and excitement I saw outcrops all over the surface area. I couldn’t believe my eyes, in excitement I forgot my tiredness and started to run laughing and shouting only to find the entire mountain was covered in outcrops of beautiful shimmering rocks with abundant chrome.
I picked up samples and threw myself on the ground thirst forgotten. All I could see was money! All my tiredness dissipated and I started laughing and talking to the hunter wondering if he understood what in God’s name he was showing me. All the way back I walked briskly, tiredness and complaining forgotten. I couldn’t believe our sheer luck.
This is how we came across our claim and thereafter we went to carry out the necessary pegging and paperwork and to my delight our first seam was continuous and not deep at all…I now know and believe that the elders know best and that its indeed important to consult them for they truly know where great wealth lies in this country.
Furthermore I now know that Zimbabwe is richly blessed and a land of opportunity if you’re willing to take the risk… Beautiful Zimbabwe!
JN: What is the present scale of your mining operations and what do you mine?
I am in a mining partnership in Mashonaland Central and I mine chrome. We currently have the capacity to mine 5,000 tonnes per month, but have scaled back significantly on operations due to some economic factors. I am also engaging in semi-precious stone mining.
JN: What challenges do you face as a woman miner?
Constantly being undermined or perceived as unknowledgeable about the industry by male counterparts, however I prefer to dwell on the fact that I have worked hard within the industry and been instrumental in some changes.
JN: What challenges exist in mining in general?
Access to capital remains the biggest challenge coupled with policy inconsistency within the chrome mining sector
JN: How do you balance your role as a miner and a mother?
LM: I am a proud mom who balances my family life and work by prioritising family first while maintaining the highest level of professionalism within the various sectors I am engaged in.
JN: How many people are you employing?
LM: I currently employ 25 people
JN: What’s your advice to women who want to venture into mining?
LM: Learn as much as you can about the sector before entering and take whatever training is available. Once you’ve entered the sector continue to research your industry both on a national and international level and actively participate and engage on all government consultative forums that impact your industry. I also encourage women to engage with experienced miners as well as elders who come from the various mining towns and areas.
Lindiwe Mpofu has defied the odds in the male dominated industry and demonstrated to be an exceptional woman.
The mining industry in Zimbabwe needs more women like her to reach its zenith.
If you are a woman and you would like to share your journey in mining and agriculture get in touch with Jeoffrey Ncube on 0776302592.Email [email protected].