Demands for fairer resource extraction get louder

…as President acknowledges rampant injustices in mining sector

EnviroPress Reporter

In its quest to achieve a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023, Zimbabwe has opened up the country to foreign investments in the sector, a move which has been met with much criticism as communities have been fighting for their territorial integrity against the foreigners.

With the government racing against the clock, there has not been much consent sought from the locals as foreign investors particularly the Chinese have taken over dominance in the mining sector.

Environmental rights lawyer Darlington Chidharara said the country was at a disadvantage in matters of sustainable mining; with foreign companies often engaging in abusive extraction and the export of non-beneficiated minerals.

“Abuses being recorded in the mining sector by foreign companies are shocking. But what is worse perhaps is the continued exportation of raw minerals which get beneficiated elsewhere before being sold back to the country as finished products at inflated costs. Over the decades, we had hoped that we will have built industries and systems that guarantee maximum benefit to the country and local communities,” he said.

George Gwezuva, a community rights activist in Chivi, said with the current resource governance systems, the country will continue losing out despite the endless minerals rush being recorded.

“Murowa Diamonds camped here in Chivi and conducted its activities for three years but we got nothing out of it. Similar experiences in Mutoko where granite mining has been going on for several decades but with no tangible community benefit is equally depressing. And if you add that to the abuses accompanying the extraction of newfound lithium in Mberengwa and diamonds in Marange, you then realize our resource curse,” said Gwezuva.

While officiating at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Chinese-owned Sabi Star Mine lithium project in Buhera recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa acknowledged that many communities resemble poverty amidst plenty; with companies awarded mining rights getting richer and richer.

He said there was no meaningful benefit or development the communities were realizing from mining activities in their respective areas but rather communities were at the receiving end of the negative impacts of mining like land degradation and pollution.

“Gone are the days when communities merely bear the brunt and endure the sorry state of environmental degradation as a result of mining activities.

“I know some areas have suffered as a result of mining which did not benefit the community, we are addressing this. Let us all be responsible corporate citizens and guarantee a holistic development that leaves no one and no place behind,” said Mnangagwa.

Mining companies have been found wanting in developing the local communities with the little being done being merely cosmetic.

In Chivi, Murowa Diamonds was at loggerheads with Sese community for three years; with complaints being raised about the lack of accountability and abuses on the environment by the company.

When the community finally demanded the company to account for their activities, they initiated a poultry project in which they gave day-old chicks to selected community members.

The community demanded the company stops operations and staged protests until they successfully pushed the company out of their area.

This project was made possible through a partnership with the Southern Africa Trust. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent that of the Trust or its associates.