Women venture into Zimbabwe’s aquamarine mining sector

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A first of its kind in Africa, Zimbabwe’s Zimbaqua mine is uniquely employing an entirely female workforce.

Located near Karoi, a town 200 km northwest of the capital Harare, Zimbaqua is changing the lives of women in the region.

Zimbaqua provides relief to the plight of women in the region, most of them unemployed. “My family suffered a great deal before I joined the mine,” said Sylvia Mugova, a miner and mother of five. “My children were consistently suspended from school due to lack of fees. My husband does not work. We also take care of my mother-in-law. All I wanted was an opportunity to provide for my family, and mining has given me that.”

Like many other women with little or no formal education, Mugova is one of 35 women employed by Zimbaqua. However, the workforce can go up to 60, with other women taken in as contractors. These are significant figures because only 15% of Zimbabwe's 7,6 million women work as artisanal and small-scale miners.

The miners dig the 50-hectare surface for deposits of aquamarine. This is the name used for gem-quality specimens of the mineral beryl, a blue-hued stone highly prized by international wholesalers and jewellery designers.

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