By Rodrick Moyo/ Mukasiri Sibanda
Two weeks ago, a gold rush was experienced in Bubi district of Matabeleland North, at a place which is a stone’s throw away from Lonely Mine.
Gold rushes in Bubi are not a rare phenomenon. Community witnesses revealed that gold rushes are frequently experienced in Bubi. This year alone, as resident and small-scale gold miner Jane Lusinga informed us, eight gold rushes have so far been recorded in Bubi. The places which experienced gold rushes are Dromaland, Farmona (twice), Battlefields, Durban mine, Chirisa in Durban, Ingaka and Lonely mine.
Jane is the regional representative for women in Matabeleland North province under the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation, an umbrella body for all artisanal and small-scale miners associations.
Despite these frequent gold rushes, gold deliveries to Fidelity Printers and Refineries (FPR) have been falling drastically compared to last year. FPR is the country’s sole gold buyer, refiner and exporter. According to the midterm monetary policy statement delivered in September 2019, gold deliveries to FPR fell by 40,6% during the first half of the year compared to a similar period last year.
At least 12,3 tonnes of gold were delivered to FPR between January and June 2019 against 17,3 tonnes delivered during the comparative period in 2018.
According to the government, “exchange rate, pricing and payment issues, which partly accounted for the decline in deliveries.” Strikingly, gold deliveries from artisanal and small-scale mining accounted for 60% of total gold deliveries to FPR during the first half of 2019.
While others are furiously trying to dig their way out of poverty, other families are confronted with forced displacement, loss of agricultural land, homesteads destroyed, and future uncertainty. Two families were forced to relocate for safety because of the Lonely mine gold rush.
The Ncube family had their two huts burnt down by artisanal and small-scale miners (ASMers) who then proceeded to dig up the foundations in search for gold.
“I lost my property, a wardrobe, double bed, kitchen utensils, clothes among other valuables,” said Ncube. Despite the loss, Ncube is not against gold mining, he appreciates that if done orderly, the nation stands to benefit from its rich gold endowment.
To compound matters, the Ncube family field was partly destroyed by the miners. A massive blow because the family relies mostly on dry land crop agriculture as a source of livelihood. Ncube expressed no desire to venture into gold mining.
“I have a background in farming, I once worked at an agriculture research institution in Matopo,” he says.
For safety reasons, Ncube was forced to relocate his family; his three daughters and wife are now staying at his father’s homestead. Ncube reported the invasion of his homestead to the police and the village head. The police responded quickly, but had to call for back up and use guns to disperse the bold miners who were fighting from open pits, throwing stones.
Ncube is now back at his homestead because of the security offered by police officers. With high levels of corruption affecting the corruption experienced in the country, poor salaries for civil servants, police included, there are strong fears by some locals that the police may soon be digging for gold too or taking bribes to allow mining activities.
The situation remains tense, as a large number of miners are camped in the bush nearby. During the night, they fight running battles with the police.
Since the gold rush, Ncube has seen different individuals with cars milling around his homestead, holding papers but leaving without engaging him. Ncube fears that these men, who are said to be owners of the gold claims, will forcibly move him without any compensation.
If gold is not being mined in an ethical manner and violating rights of communities residing in areas where gold is extracted, as depicted by the situation of the Ncube family, there may be severe repercussions.
Gold rushes are normally associated by a massive influx of people seeking to dig their way out of poverty. Although the accurate numbers of people that participated in the recent gold rush that took place at Lonely mine are not known, it is estimated that over one thousand people were involved. This is evidenced by the amount of land degradation, a result of the digging of pits that barely exceed half meters by artisanal and small-scale miners.
For locals, this presents problems.
“We can control our own local people, but outsiders bring violence, use abusive language and have no respect at all when we try to engage with them . . . strangers want quick money at any cost,” said one of the shop owners at Lonely Mine business centre.
There was acknowledgment that the Lonely Mine gold rush led to a spike in violence amongst the miners. According to the police, cases of violence linked to illegal gold mining activities are rarely reported, illegal miners prefer to keep the police away from their activities. — newswire