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Effects of black granite mining in Mutoko mount up

By Business Reporter – Tuesday 12 February 2019

MUTOKO (Mining Index) – BLACK granite mining in the Mutoko district of Mashonaland East Province continues to pose a myriad challenges to Murehwa, Mutoko, Uzumba and Mount Darwin communities.

Environmental health, infrastructural damage, land degradation, loss of life and unplanned pregnancies have been experienced as a result of black granite mining.

Granite mining started in Mutoko in the 1970s, and decades later, no meaningful contribution and employment creation has been done for the villagers.

Mutoko granite quarry

These concerns were reiterated during a workshop hosted by the Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) in Mutoko aimed at amplifying women voices against extractivism.

In an interview with Mining Index, CNRG Communications Officer Simiso Mlevu said the challenges faced by Mutoko villagers are not distinct from those faced by other mining communities.

“There is need for serious civic education in the communities hosting extractive companies. When mining companies come on board, communities are told of the value of the investment. No one is told on the social cost of mining.”

Women in Mutoko highlighted that extractivism has led to deforestation and soil erosion in their communities with water bodies increasingly experiencing siltation.

People have been affected by gullies left by miners which have led to fractures and death which left a child dead in Nyamuganhu village.

Truck transporting black granite

While there is no weigh bridge, it is suspected that the bridge along the Harare-Nyamapanda highway collapsed due to the pressure exerted by overloaded trucks transporting granite from Mutoko to Harare.

Women in Mutoko suspect that Fract Ag, a chemical used for rock splitting by granite mining companies is a health hazard to the community.

However, although manufacturers of Fract Ag say the chemical is environmentally friendly as no toxic fumes or harmful substances are released, it is not sensitive to electrical discharges or currents. Its storage requires no special precautions, provided the containers are not tampered with and are kept in a dry place.

Despite such safety measures from manufacturers, women are calling on further investigations on the effects of Fract Ag as incidents of cattle loss have been reported.

Unethical mining practices of granite rock has also led to an upsurge in teenage pregnancies in which quarrymen deny responsibility.

“Also, government needs to be open on the details of concessions granted these miners,” she said.

Mlevu said villagers living in mining communities are not aware of the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) reports submitted by the companies operating in their areas.

“Most villagers are ignorant of the finer details of the reports and as such find it difficult to hold the miners to account,” said Mlevu.

Women called on government, through the ministry of Mines and Mining Development to enforce laws compelling companies on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), encouraging mining companies to contribute towards the community share ownership scheme set up years ago to benefit the local communities.

Women also urged mining companies to undertake environmental rehabilitation by planting trees and also filling the gullies, calling on the Environmental Management authority (EMA) to engage villagers who they say have been the most affected.

According to MMCZ, 75 percent of Zimbabwe is comprised of granites in different colours and varieties of which 25 percent makes up black granite which is most sought after, with Mutoko District alone contributing about 75 percent of the country’s total black granite output.

Women take part in polishing black granite used to make fitted kitchen counter tops

Black granite is polished, for use in tombstones and interior finishing such kitchen countertops, tile floors and stair treads.

The bulk of Mutoko black granite is exported to South Africa, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Argentina, the United States and Canada, with Italy leading the pack, consuming about 70 percent of the exports.

This Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen, in Denmark was built using Mutoko black granite.

It is believed the mining company that exported black granite towards the construction of Royal Danish Library paid less than $45 000 to Mutoko Rural District Council in tax royalties, who in turn supplied Italian designers at $600 per square meter slice before polishing, making  a whopping $9.1 million.

In 2016, Mutoko Rural District Council said they were receiving only $1 for every 1000 kilograms of black granite sold.

In 2009 Mutoko District produced 121 000 metric tonnes of black granite which was estimated to be worth US$12.1 million. The Mutoko Rural District Council only received $18 000.

With an annual production of 200 000 MT, only 5 percent of black granite is being processed in Zimbabwe. ENDS//

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