ARTISANAL miners are challenging the government to extend the Covid-19 vaccination programme to outlying areas where thousands of people make a living through gold panning.
Several players in the gold mining sector have revealed that it is unrealistic to expect informal miners to visit healthcare facilities for vaccination.
A miner in Pfungwe in Mashonaland East province, Takunda Takaendesa Mamhungo, said mining was declared an essential service during the national lockdown restrictions last year hence miners, including artisanal miners, should be vaccinated.
Mamhungo said: “Artisanal miners had a few challenges during national lockdown restrictions last year as there was a reprieve to continue working as essential services. The only significant challenge was flow of transport from mines to mills. Currently, the miners who rely on exports are failing to transport their products.”
Mamhungo said delays in extending vaccination to mining areas will affect the industry.
‘‘Although local clinics are offering the vaccine, it is voluntary. Not many can afford to go to town to be vaccinated so we move on with life under the Covid-19 pandemic. We urge the government to move fast with their vaccine rollout to remote areas.
“We know mining will always be an essential part of economic growth and a tool that will move the National Development Strategy 1,” he said.
Chiedza Chipangura, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Women’s Federation in Mashonaland West, said the closure of ministry of Mines offices during the Covid-19 lockdown hampered the operations of women miners.