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The US$12 billion mining sector curse

SHOCKING developments have rocked Zimbabwe’s mining sector lately.

Swathes of mineral fields have been controversially parceled out to Chinese investors at a scale never seen before, even in colonial times.

Chinese firms are scouring for minerals across the country, including in wildlife sanctuaries, over ancestral graveyards and on land reserved for rural settlements.

Defenseless rural communities are bearing the brunt, being hounded out, with centuries-old cultures torn apart by powerful multinational corporations, as their government watches in silence.

Controversy around the exploitation of black granite in Mutoko has been well-documented. And the Chinese have taken it to another level.

About 1 500 villagers face displacement to make way for a Chinese firm that will drill and blast away their inheritance.

This development will remain a sad reminder of what used to be a serene and picturesque environment.

The brazen display of power, force and disrespect by big-dollar companies in the Mavhuradona area was another shocking phase on the mineral rush. Chrome fields stretching into a protected area have been carved out and tore maize fields and homesteads apart. However, it took the intervention of the media for government to stop the chaos. More shocking was that none knew exactly which company was carrying out this destructive adventure.

The Chinese said their hands were clean. The arrogant miner on the ground was mum. Examples of this sheer destruction of communities are too many to mention.

But two things stand out: the first is that these outcries have been loud enough to elicit the desired attention. What is more worrying is government’s indifference while big firms violate people’s rights.

Zimplats, Mimosa and Anglo American’s Unki have been developing mines at a far bigger scale in Zimbabwe, but not a tear was shed. The place where Unki has developed its assets, on the foothills of Boterekwa in Shurugwi, used to be a village. But they were respectfully requested to make way for the big investment. Today, the villagers are living a better life just across the river.

In Mutoko, they have long-waited for Mines minister Winston Chitando’s intervention; and the sad the truth is, Zimbabwe is under siege from resource-chasing Chinese.

Should the silence continue, Zimbabwe would sadly wake up one day to find entire ancestral lands partitioned into mines and whole cultural heritages destroyed.

While it is understandable that the government is desperate to meet its target for the mining sector to earn US$12 billion per year from minerals from the year 2023, which is an election year, this should not be done wantonly and at such a huge cost — both socially and economically — to rural communities. Chitando knows the target is impossible, given that only US$2 billion is coming out of mines now. The only way is to give out more mineral fields haphazardly.

Surely, this haphazard parceling out of communal lands cannot be allowed to continue. The Zimbabwe Independent

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