Families of deceased artisanal miners compensated

Families of two deceased artisanal miners, who were buried alive by a Chinese subcontractor at Premier Estates in Mutasa district, were each awarded less than USD1000 as compensation.

It has emerged that Zhong Jin Investments, operating with a Belarusian investor, whose identity remains shrouded in secrecy, paid off US$955, 00 to the families of Sure Matamba (29) and Vincent Gundo (30) who both hail from Buhera.

The two were fished out of underground tunnels, after they were buried alive during a ‘reclamation’ exercise by the Chinese company.

It has also surfaced that Zhong Jin Investments despite claiming that it is only carrying reclamation works under a subcontract of Zimgold Fields, is actually carrying out outlawed extraction of gold in the river.

Local representatives of resettled farmers told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Minerals Development that families of Matamba and Gundo, from Buhera district, were compensated USD955 each.

District Development Coordinator for Mutasa district, Eliah Mutowa told the portfolio committee that the families through the assistance from Zhong Jin Investments managed to bury the deceased without financial struggles.

“We have the issue of compensation, people were compensated. The company gave funeral assistance to the families that were bereaved, they assisted in meeting the funeral costs for the families,” he said.

Since the saga started unfolding last week, it has been apparent that mining ‘companies’ and government are complicit in the illegal gold mining operations, the companies is secretive at best and criminal at worst.

The Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development, the Environment Management Agency (EMA), Mutare Rural District Council and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), all have jurisdiction powers in the commercial farming area.

Several investors including Russians, now the Chinese and Belarusians are feasting on the bounty of a Special Grant to carry out mining activities in the area. The area was previously mined by Russian company DTZ-EZGO.

Local prospectors have also invaded the area in droves, trying their luck in the face of persistent macro-economic challenges in the country.

Despite such lofty investors operating at Premiere Estates the area is not fenced off in terms of regulations. The local authority Mutasa Rural District Council apparently does not have an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as required by EMA.

Local farmers claim they have not been consulted and have even appointed their own legal counsel to investigate opaque mining operations in their four hectare plots, received under the A1 Land Redistribution Exercise.

Center for Research and Development, director James Mupfumi said the recent disaster was evidence of the rampant corruption in the mining sector where opaque contracts and lack of due diligence are a cost to the nation.

“This is a disaster created by opaqueness by lack of due diligence in undertaking a mining project it’s an issue where the state in a normal situation, the state would have taken measures to sue this company for avoiding due process in a mining project.

“EIA is supposed to be undertaken, with responsible stakeholders are aware, the company must use its own private company to monitor its claim. This company failed to follow due process because it is protected by political elites this has caused this disaster.

“What is essentially important that this project must be stopped those Chinese belong nowhere else but prison,” he said.

He lauded the Parliament for dispatching a team to monitor developments on the ground but called for a more proactive stance in the opaque but lucrative mining sector.

“River bed mining was banned in 2014 the ban was reiterated in by cabinet a few weeks ago.  What is happening in premier is a sad situation, government must arrest these Chinese carrying out such operations and parliament must investigate.

“We are happy that they visited but Parliament must remain proactive in these processes because we have certain projects which are masterminded by government elites who are the beneficiaries. If we trace that gold you we realize it might not be going to Fidelity,” said Mupfumi.

Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust said government should license credible investors  as the ‘investors’ are now either buying gold from artisanal miners or organizing artisanal miners to mine in old mine shafts.

Frank Mpahlo Green Governance director called on government to formalize the sector to increase productivity and reduces incidents of mining related disasters.

“We are calling on the Government to formalize artisanal mining to empower droves of impoverished locals which have flooded the sector to follow proper mining guidelines and to follow mine safety standards.

“Formalization has the potential to not only improve productivity in the sector but ultimately stimulate responsible operations, enhance adoption of safety, health and environmental standards to curb occurrence of such mine disasters.

“We also urge government to set up a Mining Emergency Taskforce to coordinate rescue and recovery in cases of mining collapse, noting that there is an increase in mining related disasters,” he said.