Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) says artisanal and small scale miners are at risk of contracting Coronavirus due to the unavailability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in mining communities.
The civic organisation noted most mining communities are in periphery areas whose shops are understocked with facial masks, hand sanitisers and latex gloves.
In a statement, Zela director Shamiso Mtisi reiterated that they would be ensuring, through social distancing, that miners get adequate information and they would be issuing Weekly COVID-19 Mining Sector and Communities Situational Reports.
He said in remote mining areas, artisanal miners, diggers and rural people have little or no knowledge of the causes, transmission, symptoms and effects of COVID-19.
“Before the announcement of the National Lockdown most artisanal and small-scale miners in Gwanda, Bubi, Shurugwi and Zvishavane were mining and not paying close attention to the threats posed by COVID-19. It was business as usual. No one was adhering to the social distancing advice,” noted Mtisi.
“Most miners do not have Personal Protective Equipment such as face masks, gloves and hand sanitizers to protect themselves from contracting the virus. However, a few people in Gwanda have started to take some preventive measures like wearing face masks, gloves and washing hands.”
Mtisi in such areas as Gwanda, Bubi and Shurugwi-between March 21 and 28-some mine owners were operating after providing workers mutton cloths to cover their faces as they cannot find facial masks.
“In Bubi, a few mine owners are providing workers with gloves, methylated spirit, dishwasher for cleaning hands and encouraging them to minimize movements and to avoid alcohol and cigarette sharing. A few shops and buses in Gwanda are providing hand sanitizers at the door, while for some commuter omnibuses the behaviour of overloading people continues as usual.”
Mtisi noted that no COVID-19 isolation centres exist in mining areas hence it could be cumbersome for people therein to attain medical assistance should there be cases of the pandemic.