Publication Labour / Unions - Southern Africa - Socio-ecological Transformation In Zimbabwe, High Unemployment Is Fuelling Informal Mining

A photographic glimpse into the country’s rugged artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector

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February 2022

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With unemployment numbers soaring and successive droughts immensely affecting subsistence farming in rural Zimbabwe, young people are resorting to a more lucrative alternative, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). Zimbabwe is said to have over 4,000 gold deposits, and the Parliament of Zimbabwe estimates that some 500,000 small-scale miners in the country support up to three million dependents.

Kennedy Nyavaya is an award-winning environmental and human rights journalist based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

While their activities are characterized by use of rudimentary methods and processes to extract gold, ASM work, according to official government statistics, produces more gold than large scale mining corporations. Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR), a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and sole legal buyer of the precious metal, states that ASM produced 21.7 tonnes compared to mining companies’ 11.5 tonnes in 2018.

This photo story — captured between 2019 and 2020 — depicts some of the operations that take place from the moment miners dig a shaft, enter it, extract the ore, and when they finally get to the mills where gold is separated from dust. The pictures and their descriptions give an insight into ASM activities in Mazowe (Mashonaland Central) and Kenzamba (Mashonaland West), where the work has gained popularity in the recent past. Portraying both mining sites brings to light the hardships the miners face — while they heavily contribute to Zimbabwe’s economy and sustain nearly a fourth of its population, they are confronted with repression, criminalization, and a lack of governmental support as well as policy regulations.

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