Mining has been identified as one the key drivers of the local economy and Meddy Matshalaga is one of the few women operating a mine.
She is the executive director of Three Gem Gold Mines in Zvishavane and chairs the Licensed Gold Buyers’ Association of Zimbabwe.
ND: Can you give us a brief background of your company?
MM: Three Gem Gold Mines started at the end of 2007. We started serious operations in 2008 when things were really tough during the Zimbabwe dollar era. The mine started with what you call custom milling (stamp mill) for small-scale miners in Zvishavane where we provided a service to small-scale miners who brought their ore for grinding to produce gold. We began to do mining at very low scale and, later, we received a buying and selling licence.
The company was established with $40 000 savings from my Development International consultancy business. I used the money for construction, bought transformers and a stamp mill.
ND: What motivated you to get into this line of business?
MM: I think two things happened. Initially, it was because I just wanted to have another business in case I got tired of working formally, but the real thing that really motivated me was some time back, I think in 2007, the Ministry of Gender and Woman’s Affairs hosted a field day in Zvishavane where I participated.
It was at that time the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe used to do a lot of mining in Zvishavane and worked with rural women, pounding and processing gold. So it was mainly woman labour. I loved seeing women participating, but I felt it was too much work for them on one hand, but on the other, I realised women could contribute to the economy in a positive way.
ND: How have you managed to get to where you are today?
MM: It has been a long story, I guess. I don’t know whether I can call myself somebody who has made it. But I think it is through hard work by somebody who had a passion for the sector. The sector is very active once you are in it, so you want to continue. However, I think the most important thing is to put some professionalism into the work.
ND: What is your opinion on the mining industry and general performance of the gold sector?
MM: I would say the mining sector is one of the key drivers of the economy. Gold is also one of the major minerals contributing to the export market and I am sure the gold sector will surpass the target of 13 tonnes anticipated by year-end.
We have had a favourable environment given Europe is struggling and prefers keeping its wealth in gold. This has encouraged a lot of production in the sector, but again I think the sector is not really being fully maximised. There is need for more resources and technological know-how on gold extraction.
ND: Given that there are very few women in mining, what are some of the challenges you face?
MM: The mining sector is heavily dominated by men even in extraction itself. Women need to be educated even in little things such as how to register a mine and how to handle labour issues. At times women get cheated to get some of their work done. There are, however, a number of women working hard and doing well.
ND: What advice can you give to other entrepreneurs who are in your line of business?
MM: The secret to running a business successfully for a long period of time is by running it professionally.
Such issues as employees and banking are critical for a successful business.
The most important thing is to comply with the regulations of the country. If you are playing football understand what is wrong and what is right. Comply with the laws, labour law and Zimra (obligations). Just comply from A to Z. When you comply you don’t need to worry. You get visitors at your premises.
Let us toe the line in all respects
ND: What do you think should be done to improve mining in Zimbabwe?
MM: Small-scale producers need support so that they can maximise their potential. They need access to compressors and education on how to grow their businesses.
If all miners could comply and contribute the relevant taxation they owe, then the economy will do very well. Look next door in Botswana, they are doing well as a country as their revenues are being channelled towards development through the construction of schools, roads and hospitals, among other infrastructure.
ND: What are your future plans?
MM: My future plan is to add value to the Licensed Gold Buyers Association of Zimbabwe (LGBAZ). We want to make it efficient and grow the association to enable it to provide services to its members so they can run their businesses professionally.
The growth of good practices by members will enable a significant contribution to the fiscus. We recently made an application for LGBAZ members to be allowed to export their gold so they could enjoy benefits of economic liberalisation.