Chinese miners wrecking rural livelihoods: Watchdog

Farai Maguwu

Local resources watchdog, Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) says Chinese miners continue to disrupt livelihoods in rural communities, and accuses government of collusion.

As the Zimbabwe government is set to miss its US$12 million mining revenue target next year, set in October 2019, the authorities have become more agreeable to Chinese miners in recent years despite complaints over their mining activities.

In a recent Twitter space discussion, CNRG executive director Farai Maguwu said such investments were causing massive displacements in rural areas.

“We are seeing especially an increase in the number of Chinese coming into Zimbabwe and these are going either straight to the minister (Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando), if it is other minerals, or off to the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa), if it’s about coal, oil and gas,” he said.

“And once they are armed with the permit from the minister or from the President, they are going straight away to the community and telling the people that they must depart.”

He said his organisation was dealing with several cases in Mutoko, where the Chinese are allegedly displacing villagers from their homes to make way for mining operations.

Legislators and civil society organisations have long accused the government of turning a blind eye to Chinese investors’ misdemeanour as most are linked directly or indirectly to the government of China through State entities.

“There are cases in Mutoko where the Chinese have told the local people to leave. So, on the day, you are forced to leave or you voluntarily have to leave because the place is becoming a hazard to you, your family, and your livestock. Right now, I think we all know a place called All Souls Mission in Mutoko,” Maguwu said.

“It’s actually facing extinction because a Chinese company has been given a permit to mine about a mile from the hospital, where there are schools there. So, there is no more respect for institutions like schools or hospitals.”

He added: “We are going all out for money because we are told that the country needs to have a US$12 billion mining economy by 2023. But that mining economy is coming at big social, environmental, cultural costs to local people.”

As first reported in our sister paper Zimbabwe Independent, last month, the government has now deployed a team of officials to investigate allegations that scores of local people were being displaced owing to Chinese mining activities.

At the Association of Mine Managers of Zimbabwe annual general meeting and conference in Victoria Falls, Mines and Mining Development secretary Pfungwa Kunaka told the paper that mining titles were allocated in accordance with the Mines and Minerals Act.

He added that such titles did not permit mining operations on settled areas.

Maguwu said the mining law while good was outdated.

“It can still protect our environment, though it needs to be improved. The law makes it very clear; I think it’s section 33 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 1961,” Maguwu said.

“That there are areas which are not open to prospecting, such as villages, the surveyed limits of towns, you cannot do exploration or mining 100 metres away from your roads. But there has been suspension of all these laws, they no longer apply. They are still on paper.”

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