By Staff Reporter
Most small scale miners under the employ of Chinese investors are faced with a bleak future after government reopened the economy following a national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Most Chinese investors in the mining sector left the country for their native country China, however, four months after President Emmerson Mnangagwa reopened the economy most Chinese investors in the mining sector are yet to come back to the country.
The revelations were made in an interview with this publication by Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union General Secretary.
“Our view on mines post lockdown is that nothing ever changed at all . We all know that mining Industry was exempted from any form of lockdown though they were given minimum conditions which most big mines did met. Small scale and medium mines never attempted to meet those minimum conditions with some Chinese owned mines in the great dyke closed,” Chinhema said.
The worst affected sector was the chrome mining sector.
” Most Chinese owned mines were in the were into chrome washing and because boarders were closed , they were not exporting anything and workers lost jobs. And most of these Chinese are still in China and we hope they will come back and pay workers,” Chinhema said.
Chinhema added that over 1000 workers who have been employed in the mining sector have lost thier jobs since the beginning of the lockdown in March.
“To date over 1000 employees have lost their jobs since the beginning of lockdown and we are still compiling our lists. More workers in the mining sector are also expected to lose their jobs in the coming months, as mines are either scaling down operations or closing entirely.”
Chinhema said the major reasons for the job loses can be attributed to global markets which closed since the emergency of Covid-19 which is now a global pandemic.
“Mine owners for instance in chrome mining sector are stuck with tonnages of thier produce because there are no markets. The global markets have closed. This ultimately creates a situation were workers will be thrown in the streets,” he said.
He explained further, “Most small scale chrome mines were delivering their chrome to Chines interprises who were doing the washing and exporting chromeNow because there is no movement ,borders are closed ,they used to take it through Beira”The Chinese companies who we working with the small scale chrome mines have send all their workers home. Families are struggling with hunger and poverty in mining communities is going up,” he said.
Chinhema advised on the need of having a mining industry fund.
“We propose that the mining Industry have a fund that should cater for such people in case of disasters like covid-19, so that workers must continue recieving their pay, they should be considered for the food relief from social welfare,” he said.
He added that the situation is bad especially for workers under Chinese employ.
“Some workers are still being told we will call you .But with the surge of covid-19. We don’t see it happening. Chinese employers don’t pay without any work done. What’s so sad is that most of these workers were not registered with any pension or even nssa. They were signing fixed 1 month contracts. They were not acruing any leave , so basically at the end of the day there is nothing to claim as payment,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chinhema said most disused mines have since been occupied by illegal miners.
“We also noted that some disused mines were occupied by illegal miners. We anticipate several cases of collapsing mines due to the raining season,” he said.