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Pandemic disruptions hit mining sector hard: Study



NEARLY all mining companies in Zimbabwe had at least 10% of their staff complement affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 this year, a study carried out by the industry has shown.

Zimbabwe enforced two national lockdowns this year to contain the spread of the respiratory disease which has had a huge socio-economic impact.

To save the economy, critical sectors like mining were designated essential services during the lockdown.

Apart from the illness of key staff, the pandemic also presented other challenges, which include disruption of supply chain, reduced working shifts, market closures due to lockdowns, limited access to mines for contractors and suppliers and increased operational cost from unbudgeted Covid-19 mitigation measures.

According to a study by the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe titled State of the Mining Industry Report: Prospects for 2022, nearly 80% of respondents who participated in the survey indicated that their employment numbers had reduced by between 0-10% due to the pandemic.

The average vaccination rate in the sector, the report showed, stood at 90%, amid optimism that most mining firms will reach pre-covid operating levels in the short term.

“About 90% of the respondents are anticipating the covid pandemic to be fully contained in 2022, citing the ongoing vaccination programmes across the globe,” the report says

“About 60% of respondents indicated that it would take them less than three months to recover to 2019 operating levels, while 20% would take up to six months and another 20% would require more than six months to recover.”

In recent years, Zimbabwe has suffered repetitive droughts, high inflation, and foreign exchange shortages leading to a weakened economy and natural disasters such as Cyclone Idai in 2019.

The outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 and enforcement of several restrictive measures to reduce the spread of the disease also slowed down economic activity, resulting in the country reporting two successive years of economic contraction.

Experts say the pandemic has led to negative social impacts such as increased food insecurity, job losses in sectors such as tourism, reduced trade of goods and services, decreased remittances and potential risks to vulnerable groups, such women and girls.

Zimbabwe’s economy is highly informal, reducing the coverage and effectiveness of social security systems which could provide emergency support to the most vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Communities with artisanal miners were particularly exposed to these impacts as many live on hand-to-mouth and with limited savings. — Staff Writer.

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