Mining in Zim: an erosion of trust

black-graniteMining companies accused of environmental neglect
The mining of diamonds and black granite in Chiadzwa and Mutoko respectively have not brought hope of a better life to local residents - but fears of cultural and ecological disaster to environmentalists. (Pictured: Black granite mining)

Reports from Chiadzwa indicate that a lot of dams in the area are silting as a result of the activity of alluvial diamond mining companies. It has also been reported that Odzi River is being polluted and silted by the operations of Canadile Mining company.

George Gapu, an environmental advocate, says mining operations have had an adverse effect on the water supply in the area. They have caused massive siltation of the local dams, thus depriving local people of water for their livestock and other purposes.

He says the uncontrolled panning activities of the miners is also causing massive land degradation in the fields and information is not available as how the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation plans to address the environmental problems resulting from these operations. The mining companies Environmental Impact Assessment reports are not available to the public.

Mutuso Dhliwayo, Director of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), cautioned stakeholders to look seriously at the Environmental Rights of communities. Environmental Rights should assume greater importance in any discussion of extraction and production, he said. The concerns should be based on the regard for the environment and reports of environmental damage caused by mining activities, mainly in communities that are still underdeveloped.

He cites the continued black granite mining in Mutoko, which still has not yielded much needed economic benefits to local residents after two decades of mining.

Similarly, diamond mining operations in Marange started without complying with any environmental legislation and basic principles. According to the Association, Two mining companies in particular, Mbada and Canadile, started mining without carrying out Environmental Impact Assessments as required by the Environmental Management Act .

Both diamond and granite mining has raked in millions, but communities living in the areas where these activities are taking place have not benefited. In the case of Chiadzwa, thousands of families are being faced with eviction.

In Mutoko, the rich black granite has been mined since 1970s. Operations of granite mining companies have been a source of conflict between the companies and the villagers for a longtime as mining has caused a lot of environmental, economic, social and cultural damage.

According to ZELA, the mining companies in the area have not invested in any meaningful infrastructural development in the community. Roads, schools and hospitals are in a poor state. Granite mining has also caused great environmental degradation. The miners blast mountains to extract the granite rocks and leave huge pits that have resulted in deaths of people and livestock. Furthermore, the haulage trucks that carry granite from Mutoko to Harare leave behind dust and make noise, while the blasting causes vibrations that have been reported to be causing houses to crack – especially school buildings and houses along the road.

The environmental Management Agency has also reported that most of the companies working in the area not complying with the requirements of the EIA as prescribed by the environment laws. Cultural sites like graves and sacred places have not been spared. The miners reportedly blast sacred mountains where traditional rituals used to be practiced by the local population. There are also cases of families being relocated, losing their pastures and agricultural land to mining operations.

It has also been reported that in the year 2009 the district produced about 121,000 metric tones of black granite worth $12.1 million, but the district Council only received a paltry $18 400. Currently the mining companies are locked in a legal dispute with the Rural District Council over non-payment of levies for extraction of granite in the area.

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