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Zimbaqua Gemstone Mine

31 Jan 2024

African gemstone mine employs only women, to produce aquamarine and beryl.

Zimbaqua, a company founded in 2019, has established a unique mining enterprise in Zimbabwe. Its gemstone mine, also known as Zimbaqua, could well be the world’s first sustainable mine empowering women in rural communities through mining. The mine is located in the Karoi District of northern Zimbabwe and covers 50 ha of virgin mining land rich in minerals such as tourmaline, beryl and mica. It is a small surface mining operation with the mining carried out largely using hand-held tools such as hammers, shovels, chisels and drills. What makes the mine unique is that it has an entirely female workforce. The numbers employed vary but generally there are about 35 people on site. The gemstone being targeted is aquamarine, a blue to blue-green variety of beryl. Prices vary considerably but the highest quality stones can reportedly fetch up to US$1 000 per carat. Zimbaqua is the brainchild of Iver Rosenkrantz, a Danish gemmologist who has over 10 years of experience sourcing gemstones across all parts of Africa, and Patrick Tendayi Zindoga, a Zimbabwean with a background in the construction industry. Zimbaqua says that they have chosen to empower women through mining because they believe there is a need for change and inclusivity. “Unemployment in rural areas of Zimbabwe is a big challenge and opportunities for women are very few. Many of employees are single mothers who have been struggling to feed and offer their children basic needs. We are setting new standards for mining and creating opportunities for women, ultimately uplifting and improving their living standards. ”They note that once they had found an appropriate location for the mine, they held meetings with the chief and community leaders to discuss the project. “Everyone seemed to be surprised by our intention to only employ women; nonetheless, no one was against the idea, just a little puzzled. ”They continue: “Once we were given the goahead and support from the community, we took the time to meet with each farmer whose land was affected by the mine to discuss the way forward. Each of the farmers within the mining area got a new piece of land and we built them a new house in place of the one they had to abandon. ”The mine manager is Rumbidzai Gwinji who, before working at Zimbaqua, had never had a stable job but now leads the mine in its everyday workflow. Her deputy – with the title assistant mine manager – is Rutendo Chigwajara, who came to the mine as a general pit worker. She is currently going through training to become an excavator operator and her goal is also to become the site mechanic. An article in the Financial Times in November last year quoted Rosenkrantz as saying that since the start of operations nearly 50 tonnes of industrial aquamarine, 50 tonnes of beryl and 5 tonnes of quartz had been mined at Zimbaqua. Zimbaqua currently exports to India and Thailand but is also forging ties with well-known jewellery designers overseas.

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