Transformation of small-scale artisanal gold mining in Zimbabwe through investment in appropriate technology and promoting the concept of sustainable development: The possibility of industrial small-scale mining
Artisanal gold mining is slowly adopting technology formally used in medium to large size mines and developing it into innovative, specialized equipment tailored to conditions pertaining to remote locations in Zimbabwe. Artisanal miners use obsolete technology and are ill-informed of new transitions in terms of technical knowledge on sustainable development, mine planning and design techniques due to rudiment mining principles still in use. Low productivity due to low efficiency in the mining operations has undermined the economic potential of artisan gold miners. This economic potential has also been affected by rapid environmental degradation caused by artisan miners. The rationale of the thesis is to identify and measure formalization of the sector (artisan gold miners) and investment in appropriate technology which is home made, efficient and environmentally friendly, and to promote sustainability in the artisan gold mining sector. Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) method was used for collecting information for the identification and assessment of different methodologies in ore extraction and processing used by ASSMs; and assessment of the level of awareness of safety, health and environment issues as part of sustainability. Logic modeling was applied on information concerning technology development and the environmental awareness of artisan gold miners. A sample of twenty-five artisan miners were interviewed at length. The average age of the workers was 27.4 years old with the majority of them being youth who are school leavers. There is a bias towards use of unconventional technology as it is inexpensive and simple. 48% of the interviewed miners thought panning activities destroyed rivers and 76% were aware of mercury and cyanide poisoning effects. The amalgamation process (for gold extraction) poses great health risks to panners especially during the heating of the amalgam as this is done mostly indoors. This incipient equipment has less than 50% average recovery of free gold whilst a newly developed wind sifting, gravity separator (that does not require water) can achieve 90% recovery of free gold. Transformation in the artisan-mining sector can be initiated by organizing miners into syndicates so as to equip them in the large groups with appropriate tools and techniques to run their mines.