BY TINASHE KAIRIZA/MELODY CHIKONO
A CHINESE mining company, Heijin, is pushing to evict hundreds of villagers in Murehwa, Mashonaland East province, after it was given a special mining grant to extract black granite on densely populated land covering 300 hectares, the Zimbabwe Independent can exclusively reveal.
This comes at a time Chinese companies are frenziedly descending on the province, which is rich in the rare but lucrative stone.
The latest incursion by Heijin comes in the wake of yet another bruising fight pitting villagers in Mutoko and Shanghai Haoying Mining Investments that was given claims to mine black granite.
Although Shanghai Haoying has offered compensation to the families, which will be displaced when implementation of the project commences, plans by the Chinese company to set up operations in the area have triggered stiff resistance from the villagers.
Relating to similar developments now unfolding in Murehwa, Heijin, which was only incorporated under Zimbabwe’s laws in June this year, has already engaged a consultant to undertake an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
According to documents seen by the Independent this week, Heijin wrote to Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe (UMP) rural district council (RDC) chief executive officer Murandu Kanganga requesting to undertake the EIA.
The letter, dated July 2, 2021, reads: “Heijin Mining Company is a holder of two black granite mining blocks namely Kaseke (1256 BMT) and Chibvi (ME1253BM), which are situated within Uzumba Reserve in Kaseke village of Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe District. Proposed is black granite mining, cutting and polishing on the two mining blocks.
“Our project being of national value and interest, we do understand the importance of working in harmony with relevant and key stakeholders, exchange of ideas as a guarantee to sustainable mining operations.”
Heijin intends to set up a cutting and polishing plant, storage facilities for finished products and an open cast mine. Heijin, as shown by the letter, is located at 304 Warwick, Josiah Chinamano Avenue, Harare.
Documents show that Edzai Ndemera, Emmanuel Ndemera, Alec Mutizwa, Dillia Chingwena and Libo Zhongjian Resources are the owners of Heijin. Libo Zhongjian Resources holds a 70% stake.
A Heijin consultant did not respond to questions sent by this publication.
In a letter written by Murehwa councillor Zvondai Marowa to Mines minister Winston Chitando, the black granite mining operations will emit dust and other emissions “affecting nearby schools, households and water bodies”.
“This letter seeks to object to granite mining in Nenzou Village Uzumba Ward 14 under Chief Nyajina. Heijing is a holder of two mining blocks, namely Kaseke and Chibvi. The blocks cover an area of more than 300 hectares,” the letter reads.
“We object to the mining project because the covered area is our grazing land, more than 39 households are inside the blocks and are going to be affected and we have graves of our loved ones within the pegged area.”
The letter, which outlines reasons for objecting to the project, dated August 23, also highlights that villagers were opposed to the plan because it would desecrate the villagers’ religious sites.
It reads: “The area in question is also used for rainmaking rituals, so we believe tempering with it will affect us as a community.”
Headman Kaseke, in a letter addressed to Minister of State for Mashonaland East province Appolonia Munzverengwi and Chitando, emphasised that the community was opposed to the planned project.
“Reference is made to the movement in and out of our area by ‘potential investors’ whose mining claims will result in the displacement or relocation of people from the area,” the letter dated August 24 reads.
“Legally, it is prudent to note that government is under both a statutory and constitutional duty to engage the community before any adverse action is taken. In the case of Kaseke and Chibvi, relevant authorities did not do this as no one consulted the community as far as we know.”
Chitando could not be reached for comment.
As in Mutoko, the Chinese investor has sought the buy-in of stakeholders by convening meetings with traditional leaders, villagers and officials from the UMP RDC.
A villager, who attended a meeting held last week on Saturday, told the Independent villagers complained about granite miners in the area.
“It is clear that the affected communities have not benefited in any way. What we have seen is the pillaging of our resources and catastrophic environmental degradation,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said this week.
With Mashonaland East now a battleground for various investors (mostly from China) scrambling to obtain black granite claims, Shanghai Haoying has engaged Prime Chart, a local company, to conduct an EIA.
A Prime Chart representative said affected villagers will be compensated by “generous agricultural inputs sufficient for three seasons, a home in principle that is better than what they had and a solar powered borehole for each homestead”.
According to the official, Shanghai Haoying will also offer a “once-off cash payment for land preparations”.
Shanghai Haoying general manager Shuoshuo Song last week said: “Exploration (will begin) once the environmental (impact) assessment, which is underway is finalised.
“There is more profit in value addition; it is our ultimate objective to polish the granite and do beneficiation.”
As reported a fortnight ago by this publication, Richbase — another Chinese firm — is setting up a processing plant in Mutoko, that will be part of the black granite mining and beneficiation value chain, which is controlled by investors from the Asian giant and Italy.
Natural Stone Export Company, Illford Services Mining Company, Quarrying Enterprises, CRG Quarries and New Obsidian Granite are some of the companies extracting the lucrative mineral in Mutoko that is shipped to Asia and Europe.