Chinese miners pose environmental threat

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Staff Reporter

ZVIMBA- Acting headman Ranganayi Raphael Nyamangara of Zvimba looks dejected and frustrated as he accuses Government for allowing two Chinese investors to extract chrome deposits near the Great Dyke, about 80 kilometres north-west of Harare.

Two Chinese companies namely Decolux and San He Mining entered into partnership with Zim-Alloys owned by Benscore, a consortium of indigenous businessmen to exploit chrome concentrates where at least $100 million will be injected to resuscitate operations for the ferrochrome producer.

However, for the past two years people living  around the Sutton mine including Nyamangara, environmentalists, youths, and resettled farmers are feeling the heat of natural plunder of minerals and forests.

Chinese investors are ravaging the forests searching for chrome deposits through alluvial mining in the northern province of mineral rich Mashonaland West province.

Nyamangara’s bone of contention is based on ravaged environment degradation leaving barren forests here.

‘‘We are surprised on whoever awarded these Chinese investors tenders to mine chrome here. Traditionally we are custodians of natural resources but we were never approached. Forests are being destructed,” he lamented.

Chinese are into alluvial chrome mining with large slum water deposits flowing into Makuvadze river, the source of water for both villagers and domestic animals.

A local youth Vengai Gwanzura says, ‘There is no commitment for corporate social responsibility by these Chinese. They cannot change our living conditions.’

Nyamangara’s frustration is sad reality gripping villagers under Zvimba West constituency where Makuvadze river stretches into Mazvikadei river, 30 kilometres away is affected.

‘‘There is no remedy  for us as the rains are due to set in few days,” says a local villager Raiza Kamanga of Sutton area.

Villagers say, ‘no one’ spoke to them over natural resources.

A teacher at Sutton Mine secondary school who declined to be named for professional reasons said there is lack of transparency over the mining rights here.

‘‘Government must make every investor accountable to the community by ploughing back to safeguard our environment,” he says.

Nyamangara and villagers are caught between investment and environment degradation in a country battling to revive ailing economy with mining being part of survival path but is being abused nationally.

Zimbabwe Diamonds Workers Union secretary general Justice Chinhema agrees that mining sector has been affected.

“We are concerned that some so-called investors are damaging environment besides poor working conditions. We urge Government to put its house in order where Chinese are abusing environment and labour laws with impunity,” says Chinhema.

He admits that the Zvimba case is not isolated.

“We are currently on national tour inspecting major gold mines but looting is another critical issue that Government and other stakeholders must address urgently,” adds Chinhema.

No official comment could be obtained from Environment Management Agency (EMA) on the issue amid revelations that some of ‘clearances’ are done at national offices.

“Some provincial officers are in the dark on Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) that are done clandestinely,” said a source who refused to be named for professional reasons.

However, Zim-Alloys general manager Mike Dzinoreva refused to comment saying the mine is under judicial management.

‘Get in touch with our judicial manager to make official comment,’ said Dzinoreva in a telephone interview.

The judiciary officer refused to comment.

“We cannot comment anything as our EIA papers are in good order,” he said before abruptly disconnecting the phone.

Norton Member of Parliament Temba Mliswa accused Chinese investors of massive mining environment degradation after getting mining rights.

Mliswa who is also  the parliament portfolio committee chairperson on mines said:

“Several mining companies have failed to observe environment appreciation that risk human and animals’ lives. Some do not have EIA that needs input from all stakeholders for ENA to evaluate environmental impacts including socio economic cultural and health among others.”