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Mining in Zimbabwe

Priscilla Nyatsanga

06 Jun, 2024

Navigating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Transforming Zimbabwe's Mining Landscape


The mining industry is increasingly turning to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) programmes to address a range of challenges including an aging workforce, increased socio-economic public pressure, and growing demand for innovative technical solutions to mining problems. However, there is a lack of information on DE&I initiatives in mining contexts, creating a hinderance to the adoption and development of these programmes.


In addition to the plethora of international conventions and trade agreements which address the question of international labour standards, including those from the UN, the OECD and the ILO, (traditionally known as ‘soft law’), there is now an emerging body of black letter law in many countries which has the scope to penalise employers severely for failing to ensure compliance with international employment law standards. This includes the growing obligation to monitor global supply chains designed to eradicate human trafficking, child labour and other labour market abuses.


Further, with Millennials and Generation Z beginning to populate the workforce, contemporaneous issues such as the environment, diversity, equity and inclusion, and privacy have become more important considerations to them than to their predecessors. Against this backdrop, it becomes essential for employers to consider what ESG looks like in the workplace.


Zimbabwe's mining sector, endowed with rich mineral resources, stands as a cornerstone of the nation's economy. Yet, to fully harness its potential for sustainable development, the sector must confront the challenges of diversity and inclusion. Poised between its rich potential for economic growth and the imperative for inclusive practices, there is a growing recognition that sustainable development in this sector hinges not only on resource extraction but also on fostering diversity and inclusion. In this article, we delve into the significance of diversity and inclusion in Zimbabwe's mining industry, the hurdles it faces, and the pathways toward a more equitable and prosperous future.


The importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity encompasses a spectrum of differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, and disability. When referring to equity, reference is to the fair treatment for all people, so that the norms, practices, and policies in place ensure identity is not predictive of opportunities or workplace outcomes. Inclusion, on the other hand, refers to creating an environment where diverse individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents. 


In the context of the mining sector, diversity, equity and inclusion are crucial for several reasons:


1.    Innovation and Problem-Solving: Diverse teams are more innovative and better equipped to tackle complex challenges. In the Mining sector, where technological advancements and sustainable practices are paramount, drawing upon a diverse pool of talents and experiences can drive innovation and foster creative solutions.


2.    Social License to Operate: Mining operations often intersect with local communities, indigenous peoples, and marginalized groups. Building trust and establishing a social license to operate requires meaningful engagement, respectful dialogue, and equitable partnerships. Embracing diversity and inclusion can help mining companies navigate social complexities and build mutually beneficial relationships with host communities.


3.    Workforce Development: By embracing diversity and inclusion, the mining sector can attract and retain top talent from diverse backgrounds. This not only enhances the industry's competitiveness but also contributes to the socio-economic development of local communities by providing employment opportunities and skills development programs.


4.    Risk Management: Inclusive decision-making processes can mitigate operational risks and enhance corporate governance. By incorporating diverse perspectives into risk assessments and stakeholder consultations, mining companies can anticipate potential conflicts, minimize reputational risks, and foster sustainable practices that benefit both shareholders and society.


Challenges Facing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Zimbabwean Mining Sector:

Despite the compelling rationale and public enthusiasm for diversity and inclusion, the Zimbabwean mining sector faces several challenges in achieving meaningful progress. The largest barrier to adopting DE&I strategies in the mining industry, as perceived by mining industry professionals and executive leadership, is the lack of available information on DE&I initiatives in mining contexts. In addition to the lack of information, the following matters plague the sector and are considered in more detail below.


1.    Historical Inequities: The legacy of colonialism and discriminatory policies has entrenched social inequalities across the entire African continent. These historical injustices continue to shape power dynamics, access to resources, and opportunities for marginalized groups, including women, indigenous peoples, and ethnic minorities.


2.    Gender Disparities: Women are significantly underrepresented in the mining industry, particularly in leadership positions and technical roles. Deep-rooted gender stereotypes, cultural barriers, and workplace harassment contribute to the persistent gender gap in the sector, limiting women's participation and advancement.


3.    Limited Access to Resources: Indigenous communities often lack access to resources and information necessary to participate meaningfully in the mining sector. Limited education and training opportunities, coupled with linguistic and cultural barriers, impede their ability to engage in decision-making processes and benefit from mining activities.


4.    Regulatory Challenges: While Zimbabwe has made strides in enacting laws and policies to promote diversity and inclusion, enforcement mechanisms remain weak. Inconsistent implementation of regulations and a lack of accountability undermine efforts to address discrimination and promote equal opportunities in the mining sector.


5.    Community Engagement: Building trust with local communities and indigenous peoples requires genuine dialogue, transparent communication, and equitable benefit-sharing agreements. However, power imbalances, linguistic barriers, and cultural differences can hinder effective community engagement, leading to conflicts, protests, and project delays.


6.    Workplace Culture: Toxic workplace cultures characterized by discrimination, harassment, and exclusion undermine efforts to foster diversity and inclusion. Addressing ingrained biases, promoting cultural sensitivity, and implementing diversity training programmes are essential steps toward creating inclusive work environments where all employees feel valued and respected.


Opportunities for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion:

Despite the challenges, there are promising opportunities for advancing diversity and inclusion in the African mining sector:


Policy Reform

Government, industry associations and civil society organizations can advocate for policy reforms that promote diversity and inclusion in the mining sector. This includes implementing gender quotas, establishing preferential procurement policies for local businesses, and enforcing labour regulations that protect the rights of workers from marginalized communities.


The first step many mining companies take when trying to boost diversity levels is to introduce quotas, or at the very least, clearly outlining and communicating their diversity policies. The most common diversity target that mining companies are pursuing is the percentage of female employees in leadership roles. This is followed by the percentage of under-represented groups in senior management positions and then diversity targets inclusion within suppliers. Increasing the number of underrepresented groups at senior management level is critical in Africa as expertise is often imported from outside the continent.


Given that the mining industry is largely male-dominated, it is perhaps little surprise that “gender” is ranked at the top of the list for the areas of diversity most in need of improving on the continent. Attracting younger people into the industry is also a top priority, with “youth” being ranked second. This shows mining companies need to do a better job of communicating the breadth of career paths available - not just for women but also for school leavers and graduates. Perceptions of mining as a hazardous and physically demanding job, with long hours in remote locations may often deter potential candidates. Countering those concerns could make a job in mining seem more appealing, but that might also need a different mindset at a societal level. As is widely accepted, women in Africa are not brought up culturally to take on challenging careers, especially in mining.


Capacity Building

Investing in education, skills training, and entrepreneurship programmes can empower marginalized groups, including women, youth, and indigenous peoples, to participate more meaningfully in the mining value chain. By building local capacity and fostering socio-economic inclusion, mining companies can create shared prosperity and contribute to sustainable development.


Ensuring new entrants into the mining sector have the right skills for the future can also help improve diversity by pulling in graduates from a broader range of educational disciplines. Looking at industry specific demands, Engineering is found to be the most in-demand skill in mining today, followed by data and computer science and then natural sciences (such as Geology and Physics). That means the Zimbabwean mining industry would benefit from working in collaboration with schools and universities to promote mining as a natural career path for those academic disciplines, as well as ensuring that people cultivating the next generation from less advantaged backgrounds are given opportunities to study.


That will not only help address the future skills gaps but also ensure that mining companies have a wider local talent pool to hire from. Formal sciences, such as Maths and Economics, remain in demand - as do skills in deep technology (such as Artificial intelligence and Robotics). As the industry becomes more automated, there is less need for people with humanities or legal education backgrounds.


Partnerships and Collaboration

Collaboration between mining companies, government agencies, NGOs, and community stakeholders are essential for driving meaningful change. By leveraging collective expertise, resources, and networks, stakeholders can co-create inclusive strategies, share best practices, and hold each other accountable for progress toward diversity and inclusion goals.


Technology and Innovation

Emerging technologies such as remote sensing, automation, and data analytics have the potential to transform the mining industry and make operations more inclusive. By embracing digitalization and innovation, mining companies can reduce barriers to entry, improve safety standards, and create new opportunities for diverse participation in the sector.


Corporate Leadership

Leadership commitment is critical for embedding diversity and inclusion into the organizational culture of mining companies. By setting clear objectives, measuring progress, and holding management accountable, corporate leaders can drive systemic change and create environments where diversity is celebrated as a source of strength and resilience.


It has already been outlined above, that many organisations use quotas to set diversity targets. There is also a strong case to state that the quota process - alongside a company’s wider corporate culture - will have the biggest influence on improving diversity in mining in the future. That is followed by government policies and regulation, with individual attitudes not far behind.


One observation to draw here is that there is no shortcut for boosting diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, while some companies might have a forward-thinking diversity agenda in place - particularly large multinational miners that often have broader social and corporate governance policies to comply with - others could lack incentives to pursue similar goals. Underpinning those corporate diversity targets with government policy, therefore, would ensure all companies are striving towards the same outcomes. Of course, none of that matters if people from under-represented groups do not feel valued or comfortable at work. That means employees across an organisation need to understand the importance of the “inclusion” aspect of diversity. This is why individual attitudes matter. Better educational pathways, including scholarships, are some of the avenues that can utilized to improve diversity. Attracting talent from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, where limited financial resources usually prevent students from pursuing relevant courses, means mining companies could benefit from offering such scholarships.



There are four things that will probably drive improved diversity, equity and inclusion in the future of mining. First, an ageing population and the need to fill skills shortages. This demographic change is pushing employers to look outside of their traditional talent pools to consider under-used groups to address labour shortages and fill critical skills gaps. Second, women, youth and people with disabilities are all groups of under-represented workers that can fill those gaps. Thirdly, mining companies will also have to comply with stricter regulations. Fourth is the business case for a more diverse workforce. There is a growing body of evidence that ethnic and cultural diversity has been associated with increased revenue and productivity, and that there is a strong correlation between corporate financial performance and women’s representation on boards. Organisations that hire persons with disabilities have also shown improvements in profitability and competitive advantage. Employment and diversity lawyers may well be best placed to monitor and highlight compliance issues and to anticipate campaigns and complaints in advance, particularly as many initiatives will in the future, arise out of new legislation or case law.




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