The mining and quarrying industry in Zimbabwe has struggled to recover from a devastating drought in the past year and a half.
As the country’s largest export earner, Zimbabwe has been one of the world’s most heavily mined countries, producing over 200m tonnes of zinc ore per annum and the largest copper deposits in the world.
But over the past six months, the mining industry has been in a state-of-disarray, with a series of major mining disasters.
The most recent disaster was on August 4, when the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued an emergency order banning mining operations in the country due to the drought, claiming the country was facing a “global pandemic”.
The NDRC said the order was needed to deal with the “urgent needs” of the country, including protecting the health and wellbeing of workers, while protecting the environment and reducing pollution.
But the mining and mining-related industries have struggled to find jobs in the affected areas, with many companies struggling to find workers with the right skills.
At least three mining-linked companies have been found dead since August 4.
In addition, two of them have been taken to the country for questioning.
While the NDRC order was meant to protect the health of the workforce, mining companies in Zimbabwe have been in the midst of a major financial crisis.
Zimbabwe’s mining industry had experienced a resurgence in the mid-1990s, and its economy was expected to pick up, but it has since been mired in recession, with annual inflation topping 5 per cent.
The mining boom in Zimbabwe was boosted by a lucrative export market, with mining projects such as the Zimbabwe Diamond and Platinum Mines and the South African diamond mine producing more than $US4bn worth of diamonds.
But mining in the last few years has become a cash cow for the mining sector, and as a result, the economy has contracted by an average of 7.5 per cent a year, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The mining industry suffered another blow in February when a mine explosion and fire destroyed the countrys biggest gold mine, Gauteng Gold, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The incident prompted President Robert Mugabe to cancel his planned visit to Australia and was widely seen as a political stunt to placate international mining companies.
Despite the mining crisis, the government is hoping to boost the mining economy by selling the mining assets to local companies.