In mines across the world, men dominate the labor force. It is so because mining is labor-intensive and women are often thought of as not having the physical ability to mine. In mines where women are hired, more often than not, they do minor labor activities.
However, a mine in Zimbabwe is rewriting the narrative on the long-held claims that women cannot be miners. Zimbaqua mine in Karoi, located 200km northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, is Africa’s first mine with an all-female workforce. The mine was founded in 2019 to empower women in a male-dominated industry.
The mining firm exports aquamarine to India and Thailand. The workforce of 30 women is responsible for removing aquamarine gemstones from the ground. They are also trained to cut, polish and determine the value of the gemstones.
The Zimbaqua mine covers approximately 50 hectares of virgin mining land – an area known both for its fertile soil and significant gemstone deposits.
The mine was founded by Patrick Zindoga and Iver Rosenkrantz in their quest to create sustainable employment opportunities for Zimbabwean women. Co-founder Rosenkrantz said the project was created to help women earn decent wages in a safe environment. Many women have been forced into illegal mining in Karoi to fend for themselves and their children.
“We discovered that as the men went off to look for work, women we left to fend for the family. The mine has helped 30 women who were struggling to feed their families. The whole project created a platform for women to work in a safe environment and earn a good income,” Rosenkrantz told Timeslive.
“And for me it’s always been about telling stories, and each gemstone we create tells a positive story about the women.”
On his part, Partick said they wanted to create something unique in the mining industry hence the idea of working with women.
“The idea of working in partnership with women came up when we said of bridging the gap and the imbalance in the mining sector. Normally when you work with women they put in the time and effort. Women also tend to be more committed and responsible because they bear the weight of the family.”
“We faced obstacles — mainly the community saying mining is something women shouldn’t do, and that they are not strong enough. But we dealt with the obstacles head-on,” said Zindoga.
The company’s vision is to become the leading supplier of responsibly sourced aquamarine and build the world’s first all-women mining empire. It aims to “supply sustainably mined aquamarines to the international jewelry industry and offer a product competitive in both price and quality.”
On its website, Zimbaqua mine explains why it hires only women. “We have chosen to empower women through mining because we believe there is a need for change and inclusivity. Unemployment in rural areas of Zimbabwe is a big challenge thus, opportunities for women are very few.
“Many of our employees are single mothers who have been struggling to feed and offer their children basic needs. We are setting a new standard for mining and creating opportunities for women, ultimately uplifting and improving their living standards,” it said.