Women urged to venture into formal mining

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NINETY-FIVE percent of women in gold mining are in the small-scale sector, with 55% of them being illegal gold panners, a senior government official has said.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

Addressing delegates at the Women in mining breakfast meeting held concurrently with the Mining, Engineering and Transport (MineEntra) Expo in Bulawayo, Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development deputy minister, Abigail Damasane said the anomaly should be corrected.

“It is disheartening also to note that 95% of women in gold mining are in the small-scale sector, with 55% of them being illegal gold panners,” she said.

“This gloomy picture calls for concerted efforts to be directed towards creating a conducive environment that encourages more women to venture into the formal mining sector.

“I would like to call upon women to take advantage of existing opportunities such as the constitutional provisions, global and regional protocols,” she said.

Damasane said the mining sector in Zimbabwe has generally been regarded with mystification as a sector for the white, rich and powerful. This is because mining is associated with high capital investments, big machinery and underground activities, she noted.

“For women, the situation is made worse by occupational segregation and lack of access to capital even for the most basic tools.

“The reforms in the sector are not gender sensitive and women continue to be disadvantaged as they are still discriminated against in this fast growing sector.
For instance, only 15% of the estimated 50 000 artisanal gold miners in the small-scale mining sector are women, while 80% scale gold and gemstone claims belong to men,” she said.

Damasane said Zimbabwe is one of the world’s biggest producers of gold and gemstones and women are the biggest consumers of the end products and accessories such as earrings, wrist watches, necklaces and rings.

“Therefore, as women, the onus is upon us to be co-drivers and benefactors of Zimbabwe’s economic development process.

“It is important that we are recognised, not as vulnerable members of society in need of charity, but as a formidable force that needs to be released, empowered and massively invested in to fulfil our potential and drive the country’s economic growth,” she said.

She said women were good debtors and so should be encouraged to embark on mining and processing activities on commercial basis.

“Records even show that women sell most of the gold at Fidelity [Printers and Refiners] and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe,” she said.