‘Artisanal, Small-Scale Miners Need Support’

The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) has urged the government to focus more on giving back to the artisanal and small-scale mining sector during the coronavirus-induced lockdown by ring-fencing gold royalties to fund personal protective clothing and hand sanitisers.

Government imposed a national lockdown on March 30 to contain the impact of Covid-19. The pandemic has resulted in hundreds of thousands of fatalities globally and has wreaked havoc on economies worldwide. The country had 46 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 13 recoveries and four fatalities as of Tuesday this week.

The government has since extended the lockdown for an indefinite period with fortnightly reviews. This comes after the authorities relaxed some of the restrictions of the lockdown and has allowed the mining sector to resume operations on condition that companies ensure the safety of employees by observing World Health Organisation guidelines.

“Government must actively support programmes in ASM (artisanal and small-scale) mining communities that mitigate against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. This can be done by ring-fencing the royalties to fund PPEs (personal protective equipment), massive testing sanitisers and disinfection of hotspots like custom milling centres and overcrowded milling sites. This is the time to plough back to sectors that are critical to the economy of the country. Government must not only care about the golden eggs but also the goose that lay them,” Zela said in a report titled Mining Sector Exemptions from Covid-19 Lockdown: Motivations and Triggers.

The association said there is a need for the government to facilitate “capacity building programmes for ASM players on safety, health and environment to help remove the culture of non-compliance with public health, safety and environment standards and in particular the use of the PPE and applicable laws.”

Following the exemption granted to small-scale and large scale mining companies, Zela added that civil society groups should continue monitoring and publicly reporting on the level of implementation and compliance on safety and health measures by mining companies and small-scale players in preventing and containing Covid-19 as stipulated by law.

The association also added that the government should monitor smuggling and illicit financial flows.”There is need for the government to closely monitor airports and borders to ensure that there is no smuggling of gold, diamond and other minerals out of the country. In turn, airlines still flying into the country should undertake due diligence measures to identify any risks of exposure to smuggling and illicit financial and mineral flows.”

The government was also encouraged to conduct effective Covid-19 screening and testing to reduce the spread of the virus in mining communities during the lockdown.

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