By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi
Although Section 17 of the 2013 Zimbabwean’s constitution mandates women participation in all spheres of life, the reality on ground is that free, fair and equal participation of women in one sector of the economy; mining continues to be an intangible dream.
For Precious Sibanda (32), seeing her mother working in the male dominated mining industry and overcoming challenging mining escapades sparked her interest and passion for mining from a very tender age. Drawing inspiration from her mother, Sibanda dared to venture into mining in spite of the tyranny of tradition and male chauvinism in some mining areas.
“I was introduced to small scale and artisanal mining in the early 2000s when I had just left high school and I do not deny that gaining ground in the sector is quite a challenge,’’ Sibanda who is an artisanal miner at E and F Nickel Blue 2 Mine in Shurugwi said.
“In some areas, they (men) do not allow women to roam around their shafts as they think it is a taboo and it is hard to convince them that it’s alright for women to venture into mining like in large scale mines where women go underground.”
To Sibanda, women are also not spared from mining related conflicts and misunderstandings that have been reported in Zimbabwe over the years and for this, she believes mining requires ‘iron ladies’ who are fearless and brave to keep on moving.
The youthful miner told the Entrepreneurial Magazine that there is a lot of violence involved in the small scale and artisanal mining sector and it requires one person to be tough at times just to protect yourself and this can become a challenge if you are a woman.
“At times, male counterparts do not take you seriously until they get to know you better, so stay true to yourself and be consistent,” she said. “The criticism I get forms the rocks that I use to build a strong foundation for my career in mining.”
Despite being formerly employed for quite some time, the Shurugwi based miner left her former employer in pursuit of her own personal interests citing that the rewards in mining are a bit higher and if you are consistent enough, you can actually strike gold and make a fortune. Sibanda added that she is so passionate about mining and not going to work gave her time to explore things.
According to Sibanda mining is not trouble free as challenges like lack of funding continue to impede the operations of gold miners but one has to keep on moving forward to boost output.
“Remember mining industry begins with exploration so firstly you have to get information and from there, expenses incurred in mining are very high. You need technical expertise, professionals to work for you and machinery,” she said.
“We are taking challenges one at a time as it comes to that point where you have to breakdown your goals into sub goals or small achievable units to achieve one step after the other.”
Most jobs that require people to work for long hours are a headache to women who will have to balance between work and home administration duties but Sibanda has mastered the art of handling mining and family issues smoothly.
“I am married and I have to stick to the schedule and even though my husband and I work in the small scale and artisanal mining sector, I always try to have family time with him and my children,” the mother of three said adding that her family is supportive as they understand that running a mining business comes with a lot of emotional baggage.
“In gold mining, there are a number of breakdowns and emergencies that occur and you need to be on ground all the times.”
According to Sibanda, she is directly involved in the day to day mining activities of E and F Blue 2 Mine, bringing to reality that most women in Zimbabwe’s small scale and artisanal mining sector do not have solo mines.
According to a January 2019 Journal of Sustainable Development issue, the mining sector in Zimbabwe is still largely viewed as gender ‘blind’ and those who manage to own mines face daunting challenges like lack of technical knowledge on mining and legal and policy constraints.
“I can’t really tell the procedures of opening a mine because I have never owned a solo mine, they were all partnerships that included male figures,” the Shurugwi based miner exclusively revealed. “I think the procedures of owning a mine these days are actually a challenge because most people are now drawn into the mining business and it means it becomes much more difficult to acquire a claim and peg your own land.”
Like many businesses in Zimbabwe and across the globe, the small scale and artisanal mining industry has not been spared from the adverse effects of corona virus as Sibanda also concurred that business has been affected because they used to work around the clock, they could work 24 hours a day with different shifts but now they cannot afford to do that because of curfews.
“There was also a huge shortage of explosives in the 2020 lockdown period and some small-scale miners had to scale down operations,” Sibanda said.
Sibanda is among ambitious young miners affiliated to the Young Miners Foundation (an association that advances and upscale youths entrepreneurial participation in mining) and dreams of growing big in 2021 and beyond.
“In the near future, I am looking at completing the whole process chain of mining especially gold mining and I am looking at exploring other avenues like semi-precious stones and jewellery making.”