Chiadzwa Diamond Mine. Image credit

ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes: Natural Resources:Resource Exploitation, Mining in Zimbabwe

  • Zimbabwe has a wide mineral resource base which is exploited commercially.
  • Large scale mining is dominated by foreign transnational companies such as Anglo-American, Rio Tinto and Ashanti Gold Fields.
  • The majority of the local mines are involved in gold, asbestos and chrome mining.

Distribution of minerals in Zimbabwe

  • Most of the minerals are concentrated along the metamorphic rocks zone along the Great Dyke.
  • Coal and limestone are found in sedentary rock basins such as the Zambezi Valley and the Save-Limpopo valleys (S.E Lowveld).
  • Below is a table showing major minerals and their locations.
MineralMine areas
AsbetsosMashava, Zvishavane, Mutorashanga
CopperMhangura, Chinhoyi
ChromeShurugwi, Mutorashnga
GoldMazowe valley, Bindura, Shamva, Bulawayo, Kadoma, Chegutu, Mvuma Kwekwe
Iron oreBuchwa, Redcliff
LimestoneRedcliff, Collen Bawn
Manganesenear Redcliff
Platinumnear Chegutu, Shurugwi, Zvishavane

Factors influencing mining

  • Technology – the level of technology determines the scale of operations as well as efficiency in the recovery of minerals. Improvements in technology has allowed exploitation of deep ores.
  • Labour supply – mining requires all classes of labour. Where local labour supplies are inadequate, migrant workers are often employed for example workers from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola are employed in the mines of South Africa.
  • Physical accessibility – construction of transport networks and mineral processing infrastructure is difficult in areas of rugged terrain and steep slopes.
  • Geological occurrence of minerals – geological occurrence determines mining methods as well as the cost of operations. Shallow horizontal seams can be mined using cheaper open cast method. Horizontal seams that appear on the sides of hills can be mined using the adit or drift method and the shaft method is used for deeper seams.
  • Climatic conditions – exploitation of minerals in hot humid climates with a high incidence of environmental diseases is difficult. Money has to be spent on destroying pets that cause diseases as well as supplying preventative drugs such as anti-malarial drugs.
  • The size of the deposits and the quality/grade of the ore – this determines the life span of the mining operations. High grade ores are exploited first because ores with a low concentration value are expensive to exploit as they have a high proportion of waste materials.
  • Demand and prices on the world market – prices of minerals fluctuate on the world market. If the prices are fluctuating at a low level, this reduces the viability of the mining operations.
  • Availability of capital – initial capita l is required to buy land on which development is to be made as well as set up infrastructure. In Zimbabwe, small scale companies cannot undertake meaningful operations due to lack capital. Mining in Zimbabwe is dominated by large TNCs with huge capital reserves for example Anglo-American Corporation and Union Carbide.
  • Government policy and political necessity – governments encourage exploitation of local resources in order to create employment as well as developing the economy of the country. It is also importance for governments to ensure self-sufficiency and guaranteed supplies in a politically divided and unstable world.
  • Opinions of environmentalists – environmentalists can oppose resource exploitation if such operations are likely to upset local ecosystems or results in loss of biodiversity for example the concerns raised by environmental groups over mineral exploitation in the Zambezi valley.
  • Alternative supplies of the same resources – where there are several producers of the same commodity, there is a tendency to flood the market. An oversupply will result in the drop in prices and this reduces the profitability of the extraction of the particular resources.

To access more topics go to the O Level Geography Notes page