Black granite mining in Mutoko has been a source of conflict between companies extracting the stone and villagers whose environment and houses are being damaged by blasting.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association economic research and policy advisor, Simbarashe Pasipamire said a research carried out by his organisation revealed that while the community suffered environmental damage due to black granite mining, mining companies were failing to put up meaningful infrastructural development.
He said there was no functional Community Share Ownership Trust (CSOT) in Mutoko.
“The roads, schools and hospitals remain in a poor state, yet miners blast mountains to extract the granite rocks and leave huge pits that have resulted in death of people and livestock, while communities have lost grazing land and most houses have developed cracks due to the blasting,” Pasipamire said.
In a presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy chaired legislator for Gutu Central Lovemore Matuke, Pasipamire said black granite mining had the potential to earn the country more revenue. He said 75% of Zimbabwe’s stones comprised of granites in different colours and varieties, of which 25% was of the most internationally sought after black granite.
Chairman of the Institute of Mining at the University of Zimbabwe, Lyman Mlambo said areas well-endowed with black granite included Mutoko, Murewa and Mount Darwin.
“Zimbabwe has a rare quality of black granite which can produce great décor which is well-noted internationally,” Mlambo said.
Pasipamire said black granite mining was initiated about 50 years ago, and inasmuch as it is a well sought after stone internationally, less than 10% of the total production was being cut and polished in Zimbabwe. As a result, revenue which can be derived through exporting finished products or beneficiation was being lost.
“There are around seven companies exploiting granite in Mutoko and 75% black granite exports come from Mutoko. Villagers are also concerned about the disregard for ancestral land,” he said.
Pasipamire said due to damage caused by heavy stones during their transportation, the Mutoko Rural District Council spent a huge chunk of the revenue it collected repairing roads damaged by haulage trucks and reclaiming the environmental damage caused by companies mining granite in the district.
“This drains the RDC of their much-needed revenue as the US$1 per 30 tonne load levy they charge is not adequate to repair damages caused by the heavy vehicles,” he said.
An official with Action Aid International, Lillian Matsika said it was sad that the country was endowed with natural resources but there was no meaningful revenue going into government coffers.
“There is need for social accountability, civic engagement with communities and discussions of issues that affect them. MPs also need to inform their constituents about issues of social accountability and what to expect from big corporations extracting minerals from their areas,” Matsika said.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association director Mutuso Dhliwayo said the Minerals Act which was crafted in 1961 needed a complete overhaul and not just amendments as it no longer served the modern mining environment.
Dhliwayo said crafting of a completely new Act was the way to go as the current law was not anchored on principles of accountability and transparency, which contributed to assertions that mining companies were not remitting enough revenue to government.
“The Act was crafted in 1961 and issues of transparency and accountability were not recorded as issues at all, and these are modern initiatives,” he said.
“Other issues not recorded in the Act include social rights and issues of access to information in order to ensure transparency of contracts entered into.
Access to information is limited and that is why at times people end up speculating. Information on mineral deals is critical for civic society groups to do advocacy and there is need to know about how the mining companies are going to address environmental issues.”
Dhliwayo said there was need to include clauses on measures that will result in value addition of minerals, as well as incorporation of the Environmental Management Act into the Mines and Minerals Act.
“The current archaic Act does not recognise community-based organisations as stakeholders. The South African mining legislation has clauses for the role of civic society organisations,” he said.