Mining induced displacements a threat to rural livelihoods
By Panashe Chikonyora
Zimbabwe’s huge and diversified mineral resource base which is highly characterised by the ancient Greenstone Belts (gold belts) – some of the world’s richest minerals has seen the country experiencing intensified mining activities from both locals and foreigners especially Chinese nationals.
Large and small scale gold mining activities happening in the country’s gold rich areas have proved to be detrimental and less beneficial to the respective communities. They have promoted unjust mining induced displacements, which most of the times have failed to benefit community members and develop the communities in which the mining take place.
An example, can be taken from Chiadzwa where people were moved to Adatransal without benefiting anything and nothing improved. Also, there are disempowering mining activities happening in Makaha, a rural community in Mudzi’s Chipangure and Chinoa mountains by Chinese Nationals living in the rural community which are denigrating the community’s development. Most of the inhabitants have been left vulnerable, jobless and homeless following a series of unwarranted displacements and evacuations.
Also, vendors and business people especially grocery and clothes retailers are experiencing losses as a result of low purchases of goods due to low buying power as a result of endemic poverty.
Interviews with community members revealed that earning a decent living is now proving to be difficult as most parents are finding it difficult to buy food, pay rentals or even send their children to school.
“We were benefiting from that mountain because some of us had managed to earn a decent living but when most local miners could no longer work in the mountains, we longer had a source of income to send our children to school and we are now suffering.
“And when they use chemicals or explosives to blast the mountains, nearby houses are affected exposing people to unsafe and poor living conditions as at times they are not evacuated to and compensated with safer homes. As you can see our road is very bad, we were hoping that the Chinese would fix it and build more schools for our community so that real development takes place in Makaha as well,” said a local business woman.
“The Chinese Nationals robbed us a decent living and left us struggling, because many of us are now jobless theft and murder have been on the rise. All hope has been lost and we are hoping that other opportunities for better jobs will be created for us so that we earn a decent living,” added a local miner.
Meanwhile, a national campaign pushing for transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources in the country, Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Zimbabwe called upon the Government to ensure and commit to fair prompt and adequate compensation during mining induced displacements happening in rural communities in order to protect the rights of displaced citizens living in those communities.
Through its coordinator Joyce Machiri, PWYP Zimbabwe further urged the government to be committed to community consultation and approval through Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) which is “inclusive, independent, and consultative assessments, relocation with prompt, fair and adequate compensation, relocation destination preparedness, protecting mining communities from abusive practices of the mining companies and implementing international standards on mining induced displacements”.
As the lifeblood of the Zimbabwean economy (contributing to 60 percent of the country’s export earnings as of October 2018, and around 16 percent of the national GDP, according to the Mining Technology’s 04 March 2020 Analysis by JP Casey), mining has resulted in a lot of mining activities taking place in the country’s peri-urban and rural communities at a large scale. This has seen an increase in mining induced displacements, which when conducted in an unclear and unprofessional manner are stripping people living in marginalized or rural communities off the right to land and shelter.
In order to ensure the protection of the vulnerable communities (rural and/or poor communities) PWYP Zimbabwe insisted on the need for the mining induced displacements to be conducted in a transparent, accountable and human rights based approach that is in compliance with the Zimbabwean Constitution.
Development Induced Displacements and Resettlements (DIDR) constitute a major social problem and a challenge for enjoyment of fundamental human rights that are enshrined in the Constitution.
In Zimbabwe, mining companies often fail to pay adequate and prompt compensation, give people adequate notice and follow due process before relocation and to provide proper relocation facilities and services before relocation. In the process they violate litany of procedural and substantive environmental social economic and cultural rights. However, addressing the media in a press statement in November last year Joyce Machiri called for transparency and compensation of development induced displacements and resettlements;
“Displacements have to be done in transparency and accountable manner through free, prior informed consent and leading to appropriate agreements and compensation. Lack of transparency on the mining deals that the government signs with investors and the absence of adequate benefit sharing arrangements have increased tension, negative suspicions and conflicts whenever mining induced displacements are announced. If done properly, conflicts and poverty can be reduced and the lives of mining communities can be improved, bringing in the desired development from mining activities,”
Publish What You Pay Zimbabwe Coalition is a part of the Publish What You Pay global network – a worldwide campaign for an open and accountable extractive industry made up of more than 1000 member organisations and 51 national coalitions.