UNDP resident representative Janet Rogan says Zambian stone crushers are at risk of flooding deeper into poverty and being left even further behind if action is not taken.
And President Edgar Lungu says small-scale mining in Zambia is a dark horse that has not been fully exploited to the level of eliminating poverty.
During the opening of the International Conference on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining and Quarry Management at Avani Hotel, Rogan said in Zambia women who are the majority of the workforce in the business of crushing stones by hand earned less than men doing the same work.
“Despite the enormous contributions their hard labour is making to industry, manufacturing, construction, tourism, these Zambian workers are generally not benefiting adequately or fairly for their labour from the various value chains involved and are instead at risks of flooding even deeper into poverty and being left even further behind if we don’t take action,” she said.
Rogan said mothers with babies on their backs sat by the roadside crushing stones with hammers were a prominent feature in some of Zambia’s towns.
“Unfortunately, as in many workplaces around the world, it is not a case of equal opportunity for women and men. The division of labour in these unregulated quarries favours the men, and women may earn up to 38 per cent less than the men for dangerous hard work,” she said.
And President Lungu said the mining sector had not adequately leveraged the exploitation of mineral resources into broader economic development.
“Zambia is predominantly a mining country which is mainly dependent on one mineral commodity, copper. This has resulted in the country to face consequences of not adequately leveraging the exploitation of mineral resources into broader economic development. This is despite being endowed with a variety of minerals, including a fairly large Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners (ASM) which is unsung in this country,” he said. “But I believe that as a country we have a lot of experiences and lessons to share. The mining sector at small-scale level has been our dark horse but we need to show to the entire world that we have a lot to show in that respect.”
President Lungu admitted that a lot of attention had not paid to the low value minerals, commonly referred to as development minerals in which most ASM were involved.