The African Gourmet and Chic African Culture

Illegal Gold Mining to Make a Living in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, where formal employment is scarce, and the average citizen earns a meager income of around $1,416 per year, many individuals turn to illegal gold mining to make a living. However, while this may offer an opportunity to earn money, it comes with significant risks and dangers.

Zimbabwe Gold Mining Legacy.

Zimbabwe has a long history of gold mining, dating back to the 13th century when the Munhumutapa Empire traded gold and copper with other African kingdoms and Arab merchants. Even before the Europeans came, Zimbabweans were digging for gold in different places across the country. Some old mines are still there, like the Globe & Phoenix Gold Mine in Kwekwe.

The ancient city of Great Zimbabwe bears witness to the wealth and power that gold brought to this region. Even after the empire's collapse, gold mining flourished in Zimbabwe, attracting European explorers and settlers in the 19th century. As a result, Zimbabwe is home to some of the world's largest platinum and chrome deposits and many other valuable minerals. Gold mining remains integral to the country's economy and culture but may also be its downfall.

Zimbabwe Gold Mining Legacy

The consequences of illegal gold mining in Zimbabwe are far-reaching.

Zimbabwe has a rich history of gold mining, with indigenous people using gold as currency long before European settlers arrived. As a result, the country has abundant gold deposits, accounting for about 85% of its gold production from individual illegal and small-scale miners. With over 4,000 recorded gold deposits covering approximately 40% of the country's area, Zimbabwe is prominent in the gold mining industry.

Illegal gold mining arises from the allure of high gold prices, attracting people to engage in unregulated mining activities. However, the practice poses serious concerns. Many small-scale miners rely on rudimentary methods and tools, working in perilous conditions and utilizing hazardous chemicals like mercury to extract gold from the ore. This endangers the miners' health and poses risks to the surrounding communities.

How huge is this problem? Well, let me give you some facts and statistics:

- According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Zimbabwe has an estimated 500,000 artisanal and small-scale gold miners who produce up to 17 tons of gold per year.

- The World Health Organization estimates that mercury exposure from artisanal and small-scale gold mining is responsible for more than 1,000 deaths and 50,000 cases of chronic mercury poisoning per year worldwide.

- The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that artisanal and small-scale gold mining contributes to 37% of global mercury emissions.

- The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that illegal gold mining has lost over 30% of Zimbabwe's forest cover since 2000.

- The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association states that illegal gold mining has resulted in more than 300 violent deaths and 200 injuries in Zimbabwe in 2019 alone.

Profiting From Illegal Gold Mines in Zimbabwe.

Illegal gold mining in Zimbabwe is often smuggled out of the country or sold to unlicensed buyers who do not pay taxes or royalties to the government. As a result, some of the gold ends up in neighboring countries like South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia, where it is refined and exported to international markets. Other destinations include China, India, and the United Arab Emirates.

The economic crisis in Zimbabwe fueled the illegal gold trade, which has caused hyperinflation and unemployment. Many young people see gold mining as a way to earn a living and support their families. Unfortunately, some of them are also recruited by corrupt park rangers who organize syndicates and take a cut of the profits. 

Illegal gold mining is prevalent in several critical areas in Zimbabwe. 

Mashonaland Central's northern region sees numerous small-scale mining operations, particularly in Bindura and Guruve districts. The Midlands province, known for crackdowns by the government and law enforcement agencies, has witnessed military-led operations to expel illegal miners from areas like Mazowe and Midlands Greenstone Belt. Matabeleland South, in the southwest, and Manicaland Province, in the east, also face challenges associated with illegal gold mining.

The consequences of illegal gold mining are far-reaching. It leads to severe environmental damage, including deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution. These issues harm the delicate ecosystem and the livelihoods of those dependent on it. Moreover, the use of toxic chemicals like mercury poses health risks not only to miners but also to the broader community. Mercury contamination has resulted in tragic incidents, such as the 2019 outbreak of mercury poisoning in Kadoma, which claimed lives and affected numerous individuals.

Illegal Gold Mining to Make a Living in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, around 90% of the population is not formally employed; therefore, millions turn to illegal gold mining to earn a living.

The average citizen in Zimbabwe earns around $1,416 a year. So in many areas in Zimbabwe with no formal job opportunities, illegal mining can offer a way to make a living, even if it is risky and dangerous. Gold mining is a significant issue in Zimbabwe, with around 85% of the country's gold production coming from individual illegal and small-scale miners. 

Zimbabwe has a rich history of gold mining. The indigenous people used gold as a form of currency and for artistic expression long before the arrival of European settlers in the late 1800s. This sparked a gold rush and led to the establishment of large-scale mines like the Globe and Phoenix Mine, which was once the largest gold mine in the country. After gaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe implemented economic and political reforms to attract foreign investment and improve the mining sector.

According to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, there are over 4,000 recorded gold deposits in Zimbabwe, covering an area of about 40% of the country. Some of these deposits are among the most significant and highest grade in the world, such as the Blanket Mine, which has a resource of 16.6 million ounces of gold at an average rate of 4.9 grams per tonne.

The price of gold can fluctuate widely, and when gold prices are high, there may be a greater incentive for people to engage in illegal mining activities to cash in on the profits. Zimbabwe is known for its vast gold deposits, mined for centuries. 

Zimbabwe is home to vast gold deposits, and many people engage in illegal mining activities to make a living. Illegal gold mining in Zimbabwe is particularly concerning because it is often carried out by small-scale miners who use rudimentary methods and tools. 

These miners often work in dangerous conditions and use chemicals such as mercury to extract gold from the ore. This can have serious health consequences for both the miners and the communities in which they live. 

Four major illegal gold mining areas in Zimbabwe.

Mashonaland Central is a region in northern Zimbabwe known for its significant gold deposits, and many small-scale mining operations take place in the area, especially in the Bindura and Guruve districts. However, the lack of formal employment opportunities and the high demand for gold drives many people to engage in illegal mining activities in these districts.

The Midlands province is home to many small-scale mining operations. As a result, the issue of illegal gold mining in the Midlands has been the focus of several recent crackdowns by the government and law enforcement agencies. In 2019, for example, the Zimbabwean government launched a military-led operation to clear illegal miners from several areas in the Midlands, including the Mazowe and Midlands Greenstone Belt regions. The process resulted in the eviction of thousands of illegal miners and the seizure of mining equipment.

Matabeleland South is a region in southwestern Zimbabwe known for its rich gold deposits, and illegal mining is expected in the area. Several incidents of violence and conflict between illicit miners and local authorities in Matabeleland South have occurred in recent years. 

Manicaland province in eastern Zimbabwe is another region in Zimbabwe where illegal gold mining is common. Much of the activity occurs in the Mutare River basin, where miners use mercury to extract gold from the riverbeds. This has led to widespread environmental degradation and health risks, with local communities facing high levels of mercury contamination in the air, water, and food supply.

Gold

Illegal gold mining has serious environmental, social, and economic consequences, but you may have few other options if your family is hungry. 

Many people who engage in illegal gold mining may need to fully understand the risks associated with the practice, such as exposure to toxic chemicals or the threat of mine collapses. Sometimes, people may turn to illegal mining because they are unaware of the risks or feel they have no other options. 

Illegal gold mining leads to significant environmental damage, including deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution. This can have long-term effects on the local ecosystem and the people who depend on it. Unfortunately, many people turn to illegal gold mining to earn a living when they have few other options. 

In areas with few formal job opportunities, illegal mining can offer a way to make a living, even if it is risky and dangerous. For example, illicit mining of gold often involves using hazardous chemicals such as mercury, which can have serious health consequences for the miners and the communities in which they live. 

Mercury poisoning can lead to neurological damage, kidney damage, and other health problems. 2019, for example, at least 10 people died, and dozens more were hospitalized following a mercury poisoning outbreak in Kadoma. The poisoning was linked to mercury in gold mining activities, contaminating local water sources and food supplies.

Illegal trade and use of mercury in illegal gold mining. 

Mercury is often used in illegal gold mining to extract gold from ore. Mercury is a toxic substance that can cause serious health problems when ingested or inhaled. Miners who use mercury in the gold extraction process are at risk of mercury poisoning, which can lead to neurological damage, kidney damage, and other health problems. 

This risk is exceptionally high for small-scale miners who often work in poorly ventilated areas and do not have access to protective equipment. In addition, mercury is a highly toxic substance that can contaminate soil, water, and other natural resources. 

Mercury can contaminate rivers and streams when used in gold mining, making them unfit for human use and harming aquatic life. This can have long-term effects on the environment and the people who depend on it. In addition, mercury is often used as mercury amalgam, a paste-like substance used to extract gold from ore. This substance is hazardous waste and must be handled and disposed of properly. 

However, in many cases, it is simply dumped in rivers or on the ground, leading to further environmental damage. In addition, the use of mercury in illegal gold mining has led to a thriving black market for the substance. This has fueled the illicit trade of mercury, which is often smuggled across borders and sold to illegal gold miners. 

Regulating the use of mercury in gold mining is a difficult task, as many illegal miners operate outside of the formal mining sector and are not subject to government oversight. This makes it challenging to enforce regulations and ensure that miners use safe and responsible mining practices.

Zimbabwe gold

What can we do to stop illegal gold mining in Zimbabwe? 

1. Supporting legal and sustainable mining practices that respect human rights and the environment.

2. Educating the miners and the public about the dangers and consequences of illegal gold mining.

3. Enforcing laws and regulations that punish the perpetrators and protect the victims of illegal gold mining.

4. Promoting alternative livelihoods and opportunities for the miners and their families.

It is crucial to address the issue of illegal gold mining in Zimbabwe, as it has serious environmental, social, and economic consequences. The long-term effects of illegal gold mining on the local ecosystem and the people who depend on it are significant, including deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution. 

Illegal gold mining in Zimbabwe is a huge problem that has been going on for decades. It involves thousands of miners digging up gold without permits, regulations, or safety measures. They use mercury and cyanide to extract the precious metal, polluting water, and soil. They also destroy forests and wildlife habitats and cause conflicts and violence among local communities.

Illegal gold mining in Zimbabwe is terrible for the planet and the people who do it. They risk their lives daily, facing accidents, diseases, and attacks from armed groups. They earn very little money and have no health care or education access. They are trapped in a cycle of poverty and exploitation.

It is concerning that many people engage in illegal mining activities to earn a living, even if it is risky and dangerous. While efforts have been made to crack down on illegal mining, such as the military-led operation in the Midlands province in 2019, more must be done to provide alternative employment opportunities for those who engage in illegal gold mining. If you have thoughts or concerns on gold mining issues, feel free to leave a comment and have your voice heard.

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