SMALL-scale miners have applied for a reprieve to continue operating during the 21-day lockdown period, with minimum staff required for the care and maintenance of their operations to contain the spread of COVID-19.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
Mining operations were not included in Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 which prescribed essential services sectors that should remain functional during the lockdown which began on Monday this week.
These include pharmacies, laboratories, banking institutions, transport services, supermarkets and food outlets.
Individual small-scale miners, who operate under the banner of Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), have since approached the Mines ministry for a greenlight to continue operating during the period.
“Reference is made to an application that had been made by the president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation to the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Honourable Winston Chitando that miners get reprieve and get waiver as a critical sector to continue operations during the 21-day lockdown in terms of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment And Treatment) National Lockdown Order, 2020,” ZMF said in a circular.
“Mining is an essential service whose operations require continuous process and may operate with the minimum staff required for the care and maintenances of its operations as stipulated in the SI.”
This comes as the country’s sole gold buyer and refiner Fidelity Printers and Refinery (FPR) has announced that its offices will be opened during the lockdown period.
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In his response, Chitando said applications should clearly indicate the nature and modus of operation during the lockdown period and measures to be undertaken to safeguard employees and other stakeholders from the potential spread of COVID-19 virus.
Miners willing to operate were asked to write a letter that includes steps that will be taken to ensure compliance to fight coronavirus in accordance to guidance given by government.
Miners were also asked to provide an overview of operations, deliveries to FPR for the past 12 months, nearest police station, employment profile , location, distance of mine from houses, state whether they do underground or open cast mining operations, among other requirements.
Miners were given up to Wednesday this week to submit their applications.
“Mining operations which face implementation challenges are requested to apply for partial exemption to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development through the Chamber of Mines and ZMF. The application should indicate clearly the nature and modus of operation during the lockdown period and measures which will be taken to safeguard employees and other stakeholders from the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus. Once the application is lodged with the Chamber of Mines or Zimbabwe Miners Federation, the mining company may be allowed to continue operating while awaiting a response from government,” Chitando said.
Small-scale miners contribute significantly to gold production. However, gold deliveries have dropped due to the currency volatility in the economy.