Experience is the best teacher: Chris Magutsa champions green mining in the ASM sector

Experience is the best teacher: Chris Magutsa champions green mining in the ASM sector

By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi

Unemployment is one of the major factors forcing young people to resort to illegal mining in search for income and survival means in Zimbabwe’s mineral rich areas.

According to a 2021 paper titled, ‘Zimbabwe’s Rugged Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Sector,’ soaring unemployment numbers and successive droughts immensely affecting subsistence farming in rural Zimbabwe, have seen young people resorting to a more lucrative alternative, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM).

These young miners contribute to “more than 400 000 Zimbabweans” who have turned to illegal mining according to statistics from the Global Organized Crime Index.

Chris Magutsa is among the young miners who at some point in life was forced to become an illegal miner due to lack of employment. However, his story is different as he reached a turning point when he realized some of the dangers associated with illegal mining. This ignited his passion for green mining advocacy in the extractive sector.

“I was personally involved in unsafe artisanal gold mining operations in disused mine shafts, known as ‘german shafts’ where we were using dangerous loose makeshift ladders made of barbed wire in a desperate search for the yellow metal,” Magutsa flashbacked.

It is on record that illegal mining is associated with poor machinery, lack of protective clothing and poor adherence to safety, health, and environmental standards as in the case of Magutsa’s mining escapades at a young age. Some experts even emphasize on the importance of carrying mining activities in an environmentally friendly manner. 

“Both small-to-medium and large-scale mining entities in Zimbabwe are encouraged to be sensitive to the environment and to invest in projects and technologies that minimize environmental risks,” Manokore Attorneys holds

 “Sometime in 2008, I decided to leave such kind of unsafe mining activities and got employment at a mine, during the same period we started activism for the recognition and support of youths in mining most of which were artisanal miners,” Magutsa told the Mining Vision Magazine.

At a time when Zimbabwe was experiencing economic meltdown in 2008, Magutsa and other young miners formed a youths miners organization known as the Zimbabwe Youth in Mining Association (ZIYOMA) and he was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer. The organization later became a youths miners’ arm of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF).

Magutsa told the Mining Vision Magazine that he always had an eye that enabled him to identify gaps in the small-scale mining sector in the spaces he operated in. His position at ZIYOMA enabled him to move around areas where youths operated in, and this gave him first-hand information on how many young people took mining as a poverty driven initiative.

He also admits that his first career in the ASM sector significantly contributed to his passion on green mining advocacy. He worked as an Administration Officer at Tinpam, a company that specialized in Environmental Management Services and got some hints on environmentally friendly mining operations.

 “I began to realize that the kind of mining which most youths engaged in was more of a temporary activity or a poverty driven activity just to make ends meet. Such kind of mining was not sustainable,” he told the Mining Vision Magazine.

In 2012, Magutsa was also fortunate to work as a Mine Administrator at Master Cecil Mine in Matabeleland North Province, that is when the vision for sustainable (green) mining became clearer to him. In the same year, he established an organisation called Sustainable Mining Development Trust and used his own savings to start activism for sustainable mining.

“I continued with my activism for sustainable mining particularly in the small-scale gold mining sector, I wanted the gold to become ‘green’ and the word ‘green gold’ came into my mind as you can see written on the logo on the car, that was back in 2012,” the passionate green mining advocate said.

Throughout his endeavors on green mining affairs, Magutsa was cognisant of the fact that small scale miners needed funding and equipment to transform their operations. This resulted in the birth of his brainchild Green Mining Capital Private Limited focusing on sourcing and providing funding to small scale mines. 

“As I was already into sustainable mining activism and promoting green gold, I decided to develop a selection criterion for funding miners who were willing to adhere to sustainable and environmentally-friendly mining practices,” he said. “The idea was to fund only those who operate in a responsible manner, to use funding as an incentive to promote green mining; I therefore decided to name the company ‘Green Mining Capital’ and it got registered and become operational in the year 2015.”

Magutsa defines green mining as formal, safe, sustainable, economic, inclusive, legally compliant, and professionalised mining operations which are socially and environmentally friendly. His brainchild Green Mining Capital Private Limited is a green mining investments administration company specialising in sourcing and management of green mining investments, administration of green mining loans and promotion of green mining finance in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) sector.

Located in Bulawayo, and with a track record of providing services in Matebeleland, Midlands and other areas, Green Mining Capital also offers mining administration and accounting services including compilation of mining business plans and cashflow projections, cost and management accounting and development of mine management systems.

Green Mining Capital (Private) Limited Founder and Senior Partner is also the Zimbabwe Green Mining Association (ZiGMA) Chairperson.

“In line with green gold principles, and as a senior committee member of ZiGMA, we are also running a programme called Green Gold Programme – The Gold That Transforms Lives (GGP),” ZiGMA Chairperson said adding that: “The GGPact as an all-inclusive wealth building platform that leverages on “green” gold to create opportunities for poverty alleviation, economic empowerment, ease of participation and inclusion of everyone willing to invest and benefit from Zimbabwe’s mineral resources.”

His standpoint is that Green Gold Principles are fundamental in building an all-inclusive green mining economy in Zimbabwe which is consistent with the collective aspirations of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Green Gold Principles complements the government’s efforts in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1): 2021 – 2025 and determination of the people of Zimbabwe to achieve a prosperous and empowered upper middle-income society by 2030,”

As someone who was once an ‘illegal miner’ in Zimbabwe, Magutsa’s experience on green mining issues and his efforts set pace for other young miners in Zimbabwe to follow suit. His life experience and the power he had to change it encourage others to formalize, professionalize and upscale their mining ventures in sustainable ways.

“I advise miners to embrace green mining and green gold principles, there are so many benefits to the mine owners, the employees and the communities which can be obtained by doing so,” he said.

 “There is no future for haphazard mining,” the youthful green mining expert cautioned.

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