By Staff Reporter
AT LEAST 87 mine employees have tested Covid-19 positive across the country, workers’ representatives have confirmed.
The Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU) general secretary, Justice Chinhema said there was, therefore, a need for intervention to curb the spread of the pandemic in mines.
Statistics from ZDAMWU indicate that 51 miners at Unki Mine in Shurugwi, Midlands, tested Covid-19 positive, 30 at How Mine, five at the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) and one miner at the Hwange Colliery Company.
“Most mines have not done any compulsory Covid-19 tests and are relying on temperature checks contrary to the provisions of the law which stipulates that employees shall undergo compulsory Covid-19 testing,” Chinhema said.
The situation according to the trade unionist is worse at Chinese owned mines.
“Chinese owned mining operations do not observe or respect the law. They don’t provide adequate basic PPEs (personal protective equipment) to their workers, no proper ablution facilities and safe water, poor accommodation and staying, and workers are provided with poor quality face masks made of foil paper,” he said.
He further explained that the Covid-19 situation was also worse for miners in small-scale mining operations.
“Small-scale mining operations and artisanal mining are a serious risk to communities and the country at large. There is no control on the movement of people from one area to another, one mine to another, no record keeping of any visitors, clients or customers, no provision of PPEs, safe water, ablution facilities, no social distancing at all and they stay in crowded makeshift accommodation,” he said.
“Due to the limited presence of the law enforcement agents in the areas operated by small-scale miners, people tend to carry out unregulated business and activities for example vendors who sell groceries and other wares leading to overcrowding in these areas.
“These activities are common and rampant in Matabeleland South making this province an epicentre of the virus in the mining industry. The other most affected areas are; Filabusi, Silobela, Shurugwi, Mutoko, and Kadoma.
“This is due to a combination of factors which range from being near borders where returnees were reportedly sneaking into the country using undesignated places, lack of adequate information on Covid-19, ignorance, and lack of resources to combat the pandemic by employers,” he said.
To curb the spread of Covid-19 in mining communities, Chinhema called for the temporary closure of all mines.
“Mine owners must temporally shut down for a period of 1-2 weeks to allow compulsory testing of mine workers and families of such workers who stay in mine compounds,” he said.