By Citizen Journalist/The Sun
One of the three mining giants awarded a special alluvial mining grant by the cabinet in a pilot project stands accused of abusing the privilege by engaging in illegal mining activities at the banks of Mutebekwi river in a threatening development environment.
The mining activities have left hundreds of rural families without farming and water provisions causing a lot of suffering within the communities.
ENR Private Limited is one of the three mining giants awarded a special alluvial mining grant by the cabinet in a pilot project in April this year, giving them powers to de-silt rivers and process extracted ore.
However, a visit to the Mutebekwi river by The Sun news crew indicates that some illegal mining activities are happening at the edge of the river beyond the de-siltation exercise with the community now up in arms with the Indians fronted firm.
Chairperson of the Mutebekwi Development Committee, Mr. Trynos Runyowa said the community has not known peace since the mining firm began operations.
“We were told this company was granted permission to come and do desiltation here. We have no problem with a government directive to that effect. What is disturbing us is that they just came without engaging us in the community. This river was a source of our livelihood. As you can see, over there where there is their bulldozer was one of our members’ garden. Now tell me how that person is supposed to survive going forward. It’s a pity that such things are happening. They should have sat down with us and we could have come up with a way forward that doesn’t disturb the community. Where they set up their plant in someone’s farm which they just took over, imagine,” he said.
Villagers are also alleging that some unnamed senior government official was part of the syndicate being fronted by the Indians in the mining operations, which makes the team untouchable.
“There is an army officer who came with a gun and threatened to shoot us if we resisted their operations.
Is this why we went to war” I am prepared to die because kusiri kufa ndekupi? They are bringing guns to unarmed civilians who are trying to earn a living in this river is that even normal. We are appealing to authorities to treat this case with the urgency it deserves,” said an affected villager Mrs Naume Nani.
Mutebekwi river feeds into Runde river and the mining activities are now affecting activities downstream. Villagers allege the miners sometimes put a wall across the river to stop the free flow of water so that they carry their mining activities.
Mr Peter Mkwena is a local farmer who practices horticulture production downstream, said, “We have a garden downstream where we used to do all sorts of horticultural production. In the history of this country, we have always known that Agriculture is ahead of all the other sectors, which was why we embarked on the land reform program. Now to reverse such gains in the name of mining is surely a mockery to our heroes who went to war for our liberation. We are saying if they were allowed to de-silt, let them do so without destroying the environment and people’s livelihoods,” he said.
The general health of the people around the Msasa area has also been greatly affected as a result of the mining activities.
A village health worker Mrs Charity Gomo said people used to drink water from the river but now have nowhere to get such provision, “There are no boreholes in this area. People should have been consulted so that we could have advocated for the sinking of three boreholes to serve this community. The water in Mutebekwi was so clean that people would fetch it and boil it for drinking and cooking purposes. They could also wash along the river. Now the mining activities have seen the water becoming dirty and unusable. What should the community do now?”, she said.
When contacted for comment, ENR- CEO Mr. Mahek Shah said they are doing everything above board, “We got a license to do alluvial mining through processing silt that we get from the desiltation exercise. No one was ever evicted from their farm through force. We have great plans for the community where we want to build a dip tank, help in the building of classroom blocks as well as sink the community some boreholes,” he said.
Illegal mining activities have become a major source of worry in the mineral-rich Midlands province, resulting in disputes between miners and farmers. #Women In News (WIN) social impact initiative