Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu/ Patrick Chitumba, Chronicle Reporters
What men can do; women can also do.
These words ring true to many women miners in the country.
In an industry which was once male dominated, women are slowly making a name for themselves and have proved to be a force to reckon.
49-year-old small scale miner, Ms Sanelisiwe Maseko who owns Vectis 20 Mine in Colleen Bawn said her achievements were a sign that women could equally be as successful as men in the industry.
Ms Maseko started her mining activities in 2006 working alone, but now has 19 employees. She has also managed to purchase equipment and machinery that has enabled her to process ore at her mine.
“When I started, I was working alone and I was merely collecting stones on the surface and I hadn’t started opening up shafts. After sometime I started digging but my operations were really insignificant because I wasn’t making much. I was doing the digging myself and I barely had the necessary protective clothing and working tools,” she said.
“My break through was in 2013 as I gained a better understanding of the industry. I started expanding my operations and employed five people who were assisting me in extracting gold. At the moment I have opened four shafts and I now have 19 workers and of these three are women. I have also managed to buy mining equipment, machinery and other valuable assets, built offices and staff quarters using the money I have made through mining. I have shifted from being a labourer to being an employer.”
Ms Maseko said in a month she can realise about 110 tonnes of gold ore which could give her 110 grammes of gold. each gramme is sold for about US$55 per gramme which gives her slightly above $6 000 per month.
She said she had managed to set up a cyanidation plant at her mine and a stamp mill. She said she had managed to buy livestock and other valuable assets using the proceeds she made through mining.
Mrs Sithembile Ndlovu (44) who is the founder of Mthandazo Women Miners Association in Gwanda owns four claims in Colleen Bawn.
Having started her mining activities in 2004, she is one of the women who fought to ensure females gained recognition in the mining sector. Mrs Ndlovu has gone a step further to ensure more women and youths are empowered through mining.
Mrs Ndlovu said the Zimbabwe Women Miners’ Association played a significant role in ensuring participation of women in the mining industry in the early 2000s.
She said the association had been empowered with among other things a stamp mill and compressors and they had also received training from the Zimbabwe School of Mines.
She said she has a total of about 40 workers at her four claims and stamp mill.
Mrs Ndlovu said she is also a co-owner of a claim in Filabusi.
“I have gained a lot of experience in the mining industry over the past years. As women, we were trained under the Zimbabwe School of Mines on various topics such as Geology, surveying, mining and meteorology. I now have four claims which belong solely to me and I’m a co-owner in another claim. In a month I realise about 100 tonnes of gold ore. I now have my own processing equipment at my mine, vehicles, offices, staff quarters. I have acquired a number of assets using the proceeds I get from mining,” she said.
Mrs Agnes Katerere the owner of Hay Gold Mine in Lalapanzi in the Midlands province said she employs 16 people and is proud to be playing a role in economic development through selling her gold to Fidelity Printers and Refineries (FPR).
Because of her involvement in mining, Mrs Katerere now sits on mining boards thus creating a network with other miners and Government.
Mrs Katerere – a mother of four children, three boys and a girl – who ventured into mining in 2012, said she was optimistic that with the support they were receiving from Government, the mining sector is going to empower a lot of women and change their livelihoods.
“I have managed to tap into the Government’s initiative of creating employment, right now there are 16 people working at the mine. The local community has also benefitted through the provision of water and electricity. We had electricity installed a few months ago so the locals will benefit as we can share the transformer. My way of living has since changed ever since l started mining. I have managed to empower several other women through the various platforms I’m involved in,” she said.
Mrs Katerere said she is also encouraged by the fact that her daughter and last-born Lisa – a medical student at a local university- has shown love and appreciation for mining.
“I am happy that my daughter is now loving mining. She is doing her final year in Medicine and she loves mining. She is always with me and you will forget that she is training to be a doctor because of her passion for mining. I think I set a good example for her. She is a total package; she is bold and not afraid. She goes for what she wants and doesn’t look back and every time am surprised, it’s not only mining, she was crowned Miss Gweru just last year,” said Mrs Katerere.
A Shurugwi miner, Mrs Joice Chivendere said women however face a lot of challenges in the sector.
Mrs Chivendere said it’s also disheartening to note that when they apply for a block, male counterparts seem to be considered ahead of women.
“When we apply for loans from financial institutions, they speak of collateral, if I have a mine why can’t I be allowed to use it as collateral,” she asked.
Mrs Chivendere who employs 19 workers said with all the challenges she is facing, her whole family including her sons in law had all taken up mining as a source of livelihood.
“As I said earlier, I am going into quarry mining this year. The market is good and we are happy that President Mnangagwa’s Government is supporting us all the way to make sure that our side is ok. We used to face diesel challenges but since we started buying the commodity in US dollars, supply has improved,” she said.