ASM sector formalization: Chariot Mine owner reflects on his journey
By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi
Data from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) indicate that Zimbabwe has over 1.5 million illegal miners.
The numbers point to the realities of the negative impact of illegal mining activities in Zimbabwe, with government always on record urging artisanal and small-scale miners to formalize their operations. Illegal mining contributes to massive land degradation, leakage of valuable mineral resources and mining accidents due to limited attention to safety and health issues.
A 2020 study by EMA indicates that illegal mining activities damaged a total of 11 163 hectares of land and degraded 1 555 km of riverbank ecosystems in Zimbabwe. The shocking figures are a reminder on the need to formalize Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) to keep miners accountable and grow the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Friday Masa’s story bears testimony to the importance of formalizing operations in the ASM sector. Born on 6 November 1981 in Bindura, 40-year-old Masa never in his fantasy thought that one day he would own Chariot Mine, an establishment that specializes in vat leaching services.
A 2017 paper titled, ‘Processing of Gold Bearing Sand Dumps: A Case Study in Zimbabwe,’ define vat leaching as a process that has been extensivley used for the recovery of valuable metals like gold. The ore is prepared for vat leaching by either crushing or milling it into fine and deslimed material before it is placed into a container which has a partial filter floor. Cyanide solution can then be injected either through the filter section of the floor or added to the top of the ore charge.
Masa started mining illegally at a very young age, in the 90s when he was leveraging on disused mines in and around Bindura; during the period, he was constantly in running battles with the police as his operations were not formalized.
“I started mining gold as an artisanal miner in Bindura at Ran Mine and Phoenix Prince Mine, at that time, these mines had been abandoned,” Masa reminisced his early days in gold mining revealing that: “We were constantly in running battles with the police as we were operating illegally.”
Masa’s experience as an artisanal miner marked his turning point in his mining career. He says his close relatives conscientized him on the need to formalize his operations to upscale his entrepreneurial ventures in mining.
“I registered my first claim in Madziwa but moved from there due to limited finances, explosives, tools, machinery and low samples,” Masa told the Mining Vision Magazine
His experience is like what most small-scale miners experience in different parts of Zimbabwe where lack of funding, equipment and technology for mineral exploration continue to impede their operations.
Despite some of the challenges he faced, Masa underscored the importance of partnerships with knowledgeable people along the formalization journey motif.
“I did a partnership with my friend, his name is Kudakwashe Chanetsa. We succeeded in pegging our claim at Chariot Mine, a few kilometers from Bindura town, we pegged in 2016 and got the claim in 2017,” he told this publication. “By 2018 we had all the papers including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates, site plan, council papers, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) papers and all the required documentation.”
Currently he is proud to have set up structures that attract other mining players to visit his mine. Early this year, young miners under the banner Young Miners Foundation (YMF) celebrated their organization’s 12th anniversary at Chariot Mine. Masa also says he has taught others about proper vat leaching operations.
“They saw it fit to come to my mine because of the way I set up my plant, other people deserve to learn from what I did,” ecstatic Masa told the Mining Vision Magazine. “I have trained many people in doing Vat Leaching.”
Currently, Chariot Mine has 22 workers. It has since expanded to not only focusing on vat leaching activities, leaving Masa not regretting his noble step of professionalizing his operations.
“We expanded and pegged other mines, about 12 hectares (four blocks) in Mapepapepa, (about 40km from Bindura), that is where we are mining and doing milling at Chariot Mine.”