Oliver Kazunga, Acting Business Editor
SMALL-scale miners in Inyati, Bubi district say their operations are under threat from machete-wielding artisanal miners who have invaded the area following a recent gold rush.
The notorious miners have also invaded other gold mining regions across the country.
Due to their barbaric acts, the violent illegal miners have compromised sanity in the gold mining sector as they disturb small-scale mining operations by looting gold ore, vandalising infrastructure, injuring or killing the miners.
When Business Chronicle visited Bubi district in Matabeleland North last Friday, some small-scale miners in separate interviews said the artisanal miners activities have forced them to scale-down production.
“Right now, there is no accountability of the illegal artisanal miners’ actions, they have invaded our mines disrupting our operations by looting our mineral ore and vandalising mine infrastructure.
“Knowing how violent they are, we watch them helplessly; we can’t do anything because we fear for our lives.
“Even the gold ore that we are working on, they come and steal it. Just recently, they broke into our carbon room and got away with the carbon and all the gold that was awaiting processing,” said Waterwitch Mine proprietor, Mr Ishmael Kaguru.
“This is counter-productive to our operations and as we speak, we have scaled-down our operations and should this situation, which has already gotten out of hand continue, it will pose adverse effects on gold production in the country by small-scale miners.”
Recently, Mr Kaguru said due to the chaotic situation that has dogged Bubi district small-scale miners, Waterwitch Mine missed out on a US$500 000 joint venture project with a potential investor from South Africa.
He said if the illegal miners’ disruptive operations continue unabated, they would consider closing down the mine.
While touring some of the affected mines in Bubi district undercover last week, Business Chronicle observed close to 100 artisanal miners carrying out their illicit activities on one of the claims at Waterwitch Mine.
At the site, pits were left uncovered, posing danger to livestock from the nearby farms.
“It is unanimous that all this gold is being smuggled out of the country instead of being delivered to Fidelity Printers and Refiners to earn the country the much-needed foreign currency,” Mr Kaguru said.
The small-scale mining industry plays a significant role in Zimbabwe’s gold sub-sector, accounting for about 60 percent of the yellow metal produced in the country.
Last year, the country produced 23 tonnes of the yellow metal.
Said Mr Kaguru: “Bubi is a mining area where we also co-exist with farmers, but what has happened now is that the illegal artisanal miners have also invaded the farms destroying the vegetation, digging and leaving open pits covering about 4-5 kilometres and thus causing land degradation.
“The environment has been destroyed as livestock no longer have grazing land, the open pits also pose serious danger to animals. The environment has also been polluted as litter by these illegal miners is strewn all over the place.”
Dromoland B Mine owner Mr Hospa Sibanda echoed similar sentiments adding the community was being terrorised as some people were coming to do illegal mining activities in areas where the community conducts its business.
“As legal miners in this community, we are handicapped because we are being terrorised by some of these people whom we know are just coming in to invade, illegally allocating themselves mining claims.
“Sometimes, there is nothing we can do because these illegal miners come in gangs and we cannot ask them where they are coming from,” he said.
“We cannot mine at full capacity because of the gold rush by these invaders and something has to be done by the authorities and the land around us, there is a lot of damage that has been caused from the activities of the illegal miners.
“These people are disregarding the authorities. There has to be heavy policing around the areas in order to flash out the illegal miners; anyone who wants to mine has to be registered,” he said.
“We are appealing for the deployment of heavy law enforcement agents in the areas.”
Ward 12 Councillor Mana Menelisi Thebe appealed to Government to urgently stop the invasions in the small-scale mining industry.
“These invasions should be stopped forthwith and allow the locals to benefit from the natural resources within their communities unlike the current situation where we have people from elsewhere in the country coming to extract resources in other people’s communities.
“As Government has adopted the devolution of power policy, let’s have the people in Bubi district benefit from the resources within their communities,” he said. — @okazunga