A Chinese mining company has landed itself in trouble with some Zimbabwean villagers who have protested against some unlawful mineral exploration activities in their area, which resulted in massive damage to their ancestral land.
The Chinese mining company, Zim Win Mining Private Limited represented by its founder Su Xilong, on 2 February 2023 wrote a letter to some villagers in Kanyandura village in Mudzi District in Mashonaland East province advising them that it intended to carry out a lithium exploration exercise in their area.
Zim Win Mining Private Limited said its exercise was aimed at exploring lithium, which it said is a “valuable mineral used in the production of batteries and electronics.”
By writing to the Kanyandura villagers, Zim Win Mining Private Limited said it was requesting for the villagers’ consent to conduct an exploration process in their village exclusive of cultivated land and enshrined areas or sites.
The Chinese mining company told villagers that before proceeding with the project, its proposed activities will be carried out in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations and with the highest standards of health and safety for its workers and the surrounding community.
Zim Win Mining Private Limited also assured the villagers that it would make sure to fully compensate them for any losses or damages that may occur as a result of the exploration process.
In the end, Zim Win Mining Private Limited asked the villagers to sign a consent form endorsing their agreement to the proposed project.
Now the indignant Kanyandura villagers have enlisted the services of two lawyers Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Kelvin Kabaya from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who recently protested that despite the fact that some villagers had not consented to Zim Win Mining Private Limited’s exploration activities, it had proceeded to unlawfully excavate a portion of land in their village and left a huge trench that is potentially harmful to life and livestock, an act which is in direct breach of section 31 of the Mines and Minerals Act.
The lawyers demanded that Zim Win Mining Private Limited should reclaim a deep trench that its agents or employees dug within Kanyandura Village, when they were conducting exploration activities for lithium ore and return it to its original shape.
The villagers took great exception to the manner in which Zim Win Mining Private Limited attempted to coerce them to sign consent forms authorising the Chinese owned mining company to conduct exploration activities on their land.
Zim Win Mining Private Limited, Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya said, should cease and desist from coercing or unduly influencing the villagers to sign any consent forms. They charged that the consent forms are vague and lack particularity as to the consequences of such mining operations on their livelihoods, farming activities, environmental impact and the exact nature of compensation for the negative effects of the mining.
Apart from engaging Zim Win Mining Private Limited, the human rights lawyers have also engaged the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development
and the Environmental Management Agency raising concerns about the unlawful activities of the mining company.
In a letter written to the Provincial Mining Director for Mashonaland East province in the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and to the Environmental Management Agency, Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya, complained that Zim Win Mining Private Limited had pegged a substantial portion of the villagers’ land without consulting them.
The pegged land, the human rights lawyers said, covers the villagers’ principal homesteads, farming and grazing land.
They also complained that Zim Win Mining Private Limited had through its agents been exerting undue influence on the villagers to sign consent forms to allow the company to carry out mining operations on their land.
The lawyers asked the Provincial Mining Director to furnish them with a copy of the prospecting licence granted to Zim Win Mining Private
Limited if any was granted. Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya charged that in the event that a prospecting licence was granted to Zim Win Mining Private Limited, the pegging of Kanyandura village was unlawful because according to the provisions of section 31(1) of the Mines and Minerals Act, a holder of a prospecting licence must not exercise any of the rights conferred in terms of the prospecting licence on communal land without the consent of the occupier.
In addition, the human rights lawyers said the provisions of section 31(1)(h) of the Mines and Minerals Act, states that no holder of a prospecting licence can proceed to peg communal land occupied as a village without the written consent of the Rural District Council of the area concerned.
Chinopfukutwa and Kabaya also enquired if any Environment Impact Assessment had been conducted in relation to the mining project and asked to be furnished with a copy of the certificate approving the prospecting and pegging of Kanyandura Village by Zim Win Mining Private Limited as is stipulated under section 97 of the Environmental