Government has revealed that the reason behind giving mining companies essential service status during the lockdown was based on trust between the mining industry and authorities.
Speaking during the Mining Industry Breakfast seminar held in the capital today, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development Onesimo Mazai Moyo said the covid-19 period has made the mining industry to refocus and reframe its relationship with the government and the communities that they operate in.
“We gave mining companies essential services status because there is trust between the mining industry and government.
“Whilst of course we wanted to save jobs, to generate foreign currency and other similar benefits, that decision was made purely based on trust.
“The government is confident of the industry’s approach to pandemics such as covid-19.
“The way the industry also performed in dealing with Covid-19 during its early stages was highly commendable and the government trusted that the industry can handle the situation,” he said.
Lockdown has impacted negatively on the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining sector whereby they were facing low production levels, manpower, and supply chain problems which have seen most miners not processing their ore but piling it for future processing.
Those who obtained the exemption were operating on a half-day basis while most of their workers were stuck at their rural homes as they did not have access to transport to go back to work.
According to the Zimbabwe Miners Federation Chief Executive Officer Wellington Takavarasha, only 317 miners out of 30 000 applied for the exemption letters after the pronouncement.
“Most of the miners were not aware of the lockdown announcements which were made on TV which most of the artisanal and small scale miners do not have.
“After we have requested the government to give us exemption letters, it was only 317 applications that we managed to process for small scale miners and those were the only people who applied out of 30 000 that are registered.
“The permanent secretary managed to sign all the exemption letters for the Chamber of Mines and Zimbabwe Miners Federation and he worked tirelessly,” he said.
He added that Artisanal and Small scale miners are still facing challenges with accessing Personal Protective Equipment to protect them selves from the pandemic.
“We still have challenges to do with Personal Protective Equipment PPEs, the issue of face masks, sanitizers, and many more. Most small scale miners up to now do not have them, and it’s actually a big challenge.
“We have tried to look for the numbers of small scale miners who died because of Covid-19 but we couldn’t find it because a lot of people were hiding it.
‘We are still pushing the issue of formalisation, when the government moves around to these sites, people run away because there is the issue of SI 3 of the Gold Trade Act which criminalizes the possession of gold without proper papers,” he added.