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Female miners exposed to mercury poisoning

THE Environmental Management Agency (Ema) has raised the red flag after a recent survey revealed that over 33% of illegal miners operating in the Midlands province were women and were at high risk of developing mercury-related health complications.

Ema Midlands provincial manager Benson Basera made the disclosure during the launch of a research paper on women miners held at the Midlands State University (MSU) last Friday.

He said the majority of these unregistered female miners were of child-bearing age, making them more susceptible to hazardous substances such as mercury used in the processing of gold ore.

The research on challenges and opportunities for women miners in the Zvishavane district was conducted by the MSU in collaboration with the Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation.

"Midlands has about 21 000 illegal miners and over 7 000 of these are women, and this constitutes 33%," Basera said.

"These women are either engaged directly or indirectly. Those involved indirectly offer support services while those participating directly handle and process gold ore using mercury."
He added: "The majority of these women are of child-bearing age and are, therefore, exposed to health and social hazards."

Basera said the statistics which usually vary each year showed that an average of 3,6% women in the region were formally registered.

But the majority of women who attended the symposium said the mining registration fees demanded by the Mines ministry and Ema were beyond their reach.

Ema's revelations came following recent reports of a rise in mine-related deaths particularly in the Midlands.

Recently, Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Larry Mavima revealed that since February this year, the province, recorded 61 mine-related deaths involving artisanal and small-scale miners as a result of health and safety issues.

Over the years, artisanal and small-scale miners have been accused of contributing to high environmental costs as well as a poor health and safety record.

Despite the setback, the small-scale mining sector continues to produce more gold compared to large-scale miners.

Latest data from Fidelity Printers and Refiners show that between January and July this year, the sector delivered 7 128 tonnes while large-scale miners accounted for 489 tonnes of the yellow metal.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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