Extractives

Portraits: Zimbabwe’s Gold Miners

 

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Oliz Matope, 19, started working in Zimbabwe’s gold mining sector in 2017. He brings in about $200 a month operating a mill in the Bindura area, north of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe
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Gold miners in Zimbabwe, many of whom work independently, avoid cameras, but Global Press Journal's Zimbabwean reporters earned their trust and photographed them, revealing a piece of that country's culture that is usually kept under wraps.

Zimbabwe’s economy is a shell of its potential, but a growing number of Zimbabweans hold out hope that wealth lies literally beneath their feet, in veins of gold deposits just below the earth’s surface.

In Zimbabwe, gold miners are both everywhere and hard to find. Accustomed to spontaneous police raids and slapdash corruption among local officials, the miners tend to prefer anonymity. They move from site to site, following rumors and intuition.

This is nothing new. Enterprising Zimbabweans have for generations driven shovels into the ground to find gold and sell it on the black market. In 2014, though, the government introduced artisanal-mining permits for people who work independently or in small groups. Now, anyone can legally mine for gold, as long as the miner sells it to Fidelity Printers and Refiners, the government gold buyer. While it can be expensive to obtain all the permits and equipment required to legally mine for gold, enforcement of those rules is spotty. And Fidelity Printers and Refiners is willing to ignore violations if the miners deliver even tiny amounts of the precious metal to the government’s coffers.

For the first time, miners in some of Zimbabwe’s key gold districts agreed to be photographed up close. Global Press Journal reporters explained this project in local languages, ensuring that the miners understood that their portraits would be published in an effort to reveal this piece of their lives.

Read more of our coverage of Zimbabwe’s gold miners here.

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Qhubekani Moyo, 32, works at a gold mine near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city. He and his boss together earn between $200 and $800 per month. Moyo supports a wife and two children. He says he’d always wanted to be a miner. This is the only job he’s ever had.

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

Last Chibanda, 30, makes $200 to $300 per month in this gold mine in Bindura, north of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Chibanda says he used to work at a different mine, where he earned between $160 and $180 per month. It wasn’t enough to feed his two children, so he left for the current job. He’s been mining since 2012.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Sanelisiwe Maseko, 47, began mining gold at other people’s claims before securing her own. Now, she has employees and takes home $500 or more a month. After years of success, she owns a public swimming pool – a status symbol in the town of Gwanda in southern Zimbabwe, where she resides.

Vimbai Chinembiri, GPJ Zimbabwe

Sunday Laki, 35, at the mine where he works, has been in the informal gold mining industry since 2008. It’s the only job he’s ever held, he says. He and seven other people share the $600 or $700 they make each month. Laki uses the money to provide for his family of four.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Nickson Banda, 44, of Bindura, Zimbabwe, was a certified mill operator at a lime mine, but he was laid off. Now, as a gold miner, he supports eight family members with income of $200 to $300 per month.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

Petros Maphosa, 45, provides for his four children and both his parents through gold mining. Most months, he says, he and his boss earn between $200 and $800, which they split. He works in a mine called Cement Siding near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city.

Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

Moyana Kanjanda, 30, began mining for gold about five years ago. Now, he is part of a group of seven miners who share $400 to $500 each month at mines in the Bindura area. Kanjanda has a wife and two children. Mining is the only job available, he says.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Mike Jamu, 34, says he supports five people with the $200 or so he brings home every month as an artisanal gold miner. He works in the Bindura area, nearly 90 kilometers (about 55 miles) from Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. He started mining because he couldn’t find any other job.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Simon Chitundu, 31, provides for seven family members by mining gold. He says he was once a farmer, but he didn’t make enough money. He works in the Bindura area, north of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe