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Farmers, lithium miner clash

“Small-scale horticultural farmers said the district normally receives good rainfall, even in drought seasons, as it is under region 2, but now due to alleged environmental degradation by the mining company, they believe the district is now in region 4.”

HORTICULTURE farmers in Goromonzi have accused the Platinum Lithium Zimbabwe (PLZ) mine of negatively affecting their socio-economic life, while others have welcomed the miner’s activities in the area.

Speaking during a public meeting organised by Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) at Yafeli Village, in Ward 17, the farmers said the mine’s activities have resulted in local dam water levels depleting, thereby affecting their activities.

“Small-scale horticultural farmers said the district normally receives good rainfall, even in drought seasons, as it is under region 2, but now due to alleged environmental degradation by the mining company, they believe the district is now in region 4,” VISET said in a statement.

Goromonzi district farming activities have reportedly seriously affected after the mine allegedly overused the water in the community dams.

“Participants also spoke on the disruption to the agricultural value chain, as the PLZ is drawing significant amounts of water from the local dams for their ore extraction operations, with one local water body Nero Dam already having been depleted,” the statement read.

VISET indicated that PLZ mine came with a number of problems which included lack of job security as most of the locals are on temporary contracts, as well as rising accommodation costs as most homeowners targeted mine staff.

“Other challenges affecting communities of Wards 13, 16 and 17 were safety concerns for school going children, owing to speeds of trucks ferrying lithium ore. Rise in accommodation prices, gender discrimination in employment opportunities, use of locals for hazardous tasks such as chemical handling, poor and unsafe working conditions.

“Lack of job security, as most of the workers are on short-term contracts, lack of infrastructure at the market place nearest to the mine. Rise in child prostitution at Majuru growth point where some of the truck drivers park, and a rise in cases of poultry thefts by locals who then sell to mine employees.

“Residents said they are living in dread of demolitions of their properties following a circular from Goromonzi Rural District Council circular that any houses constructed without express authority from Council would be demolished.” VISET said.

However, other locals praised PLZ mine saying it has changed their lives for the better.

“It is, however, not entirely doom and gloom for communities, as they say that they now have a ready market for their products due to the mining operations, homeowners are also benefiting from the increased demand for accommodation, youth employment that has helped reduce incidents of drug and substance abuse,” VISET said.

Some of the projects implemented by PLZ in Goromonzi district include employment of locals at its plant, widening and rehabilitation of roads, installation of street lights at Goromonzi Business Centre among other projects.

The mining firm has also constructed three classroom blocks and two staff houses at Vhuta Primary School, a semi-detached teachers’ house at Belmont Primary School, in addition to donations of furniture and stationery at five other schools.

Efforts to get a comment from PLZ were fruitless. – (Newsday)

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