Home » Zimbabwe’s Women Miners Break Barriers in Aquamarine Sector 

Zimbabwe’s Women Miners Break Barriers in Aquamarine Sector 

How a group of women is challenging the male-dominated mining industry in Zimbabwe by working with aquamarine, a valuable gemstone.

by Motoni Olodun

Zimbabwe’s mining industry is known for its male-dominated workforce, but a group of women is challenging the status quo by taking on roles such as drilling, hammering and transporting large stones of aquamarine, a green-blue variety of the mineral beryl. These women not only earn competitive salaries but also contribute to environmental sustainability and social responsibility in their communities.

According to a report by News18.com, the women work in the Dunguja River area in northern Zimbabwe, where aquamarine is abundant. They are employed by mining companies that champion women’s empowerment and encourage them to pursue education and independence. The women say that their work is physically demanding but rewarding, as it improves their fitness and well-being.

The report also highlights the unconventional methods used by the women miners to extract the gems from the rocks. Instead of blasting, they use a hammer and chisel, which minimises the harm to the environment by avoiding chemicals and conserving water. They also grow and sell vegetables around the mine, and distribute some of the produce to the underprivileged and elderly residents.

The women’s initiative has received praise from the United Nations, which has been advocating for gender equality and women’s rights in the mining sector. According to the UN Women Africa, the mining sector is a key driver of economic growth and development in Africa, but women face many barriers and challenges, such as lack of access to land, finance, technology, markets, skills and information. The UN Women Africa also supports programmes and policies that promote women’s participation and leadership in the sector, such as the African Mining Vision, which aims to foster transparent, equitable and sustainable exploitation of mineral resources.

Aquamarine is a valuable gemstone that is used in jewellery and has a range of tones and saturations. The darker the colour and higher the saturation, the higher the price per carat. According to Gemval, the average retail price of aquamarine in November 2023 was $250 to $500 per carat for sizes under 1 carat, and $1,200 or more per carat for larger stones. The most sought-after aquamarine is the Santa Maria variety, which has a unique blue colour and is mainly found in Brazil.

Zimbabwe is one of the major producers of aquamarine in the world, along with Brazil, Pakistan, Russia, China and Madagascar. The country also has rich deposits of gold, platinum, diamond and lithium, which contribute to its mining sector’s performance and potential. The mining sector accounted for about 12 per cent of Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2023, and the government aims to increase the sector’s contribution to $12 billion annually by 2023.

The women miners of Dunguja River are an inspiring example of how women can overcome gender stereotypes and discrimination in the mining sector, and how they can use their skills and talents to benefit themselves, their families and their communities. Their story also shows how mining can be done in a way that respects the environment and society, and how it can contribute to the sustainable development of Zimbabwe and Africa.

Source: News18.com

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