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Zimbabwe Stone Miners

Athol Rheeder

Stone Mining in the Guruwe district, Zimbabwe
The stone is used to produce the world famous Zimbabwe stone sculptures

The mine is about 200 kilometers north-east of Harare, a journey that can take six hours, due to the bad state of the roads and the equally bad state of many of the vehicles.

It is situated on the 450 km ridge of rock called the Great Dyke, which runs from the Zambezi Valley to the Limpopo River. This area is a major source of Springstone, also known as Black Serpentine, similar in density to North American Marble. It is one of the hardest stones used by sculptors in Zimbabwe and is highly prized for its durability and glossy black sheen.

Like most such mines, this one is a small, open-cast operation. It is privately owned by an ex-sculptor and employs only two men. From a distance, it is unremarkable, simply a medium-sized outcrop of rock set amongst a stand of trees.

The miners have very few tools, and those they have are primitive � an old mining bit and a couple of chains. With these, they prise away pieces that are many times their weight. The men camp on the site, being visited occasionally by sculptors who come to buy, and the owner who comes to collect his money. From time to time children come from their village five miles away to swim in the nearby river.

Sometimes sculptors who are determined to work in this material, but who do not have the...

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